A photo of Berg taped on his mailbox at home
US officials are denying the Berg family’s claims. From AP:
BAGHDAD, Iraq – An American civilian who was beheaded in a grisly video posted on an al-Qaeda-linked Web site was never in U.S. custody despite claims from his family, a coalition spokesman said Wednesday. …
But unanswered questions remained about Berg in the days before he vanished, as well as where and when he was abducted.
Berg spoke to his parents March 24 and told them he would return home on March 30, according to his family in suburban Philadelphia.
But Berg was detained by Iraqi police at a checkpoint in Mosul on March 24. He was turned over to U.S. officials and detained for 13 days, the family said.
His father, Michael, said his son was not allowed to make phone calls or contact a lawyer.
Coalition spokesman Dan Senor told reporters that Berg was detained by Iraqi police in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The Iraqis informed the Americans, and the FBI questioned him three times about what he was doing in Iraq.
Senor said that to his knowledge Berg “was at no time under the jurisdiction or detention of coalition forces.”
However, calls by The Associated Press to police in Mosul failed to find anyone who could confirm Berg was held there. The U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority runs Iraq, controlling not only the police, but the military and all government ministries.
FBI agents visited Berg’s parents March 31 and told the family they were trying to confirm their son’s identity.
On April 5, the Bergs filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia, contending their son was being held illegally by the U.S. military. The next day, Berg was released. He told his parents he had not been mistreated.
Berg’s father blamed the U.S. government for creating circumstances that led to his son’s death, saying if his son had not been detained for so long, he might have been able to leave Iraq before the violence worsened.
“I think a lot of people are fed up with the lack of civil rights this thing has caused,” Michael Berg said. “I don’t think this administration is committed to democracy.”
Asked for details about Berg’s last weeks in Iraq, Senor replied: “We are obviously trying to piece all this together, and there’s a thorough investigation.” He said he was reluctant to release details but did not say why.
“The U.S. government is committed to a very thorough and robust investigation to get to the bottom of this,” Senor said, adding that “multiple” U.S. agencies would be involved and that the FBI would probably have overall direction.
Senor said that in Iraq, Berg had no affiliation with the U.S. government, the coalition or “to my knowledge” any coalition-affiliated contractor. But Senor would not specify why Iraqi police, who generally take direction from coalition authorities, had arrested him and held him.
Brig. Gen Mark Kimmitt said the only role the U.S. military played in Berg’s confinement was to liaise with the Iraqi police to make sure he was being fed and properly treated because “he was still an American citizen.”
It was unclear whether al-Zarqawi was shown in the Web site video or simply ordered the killing. Al-Zarqawi also is sought in the assassination of a U.S. diplomat in Jordan in 2002, and Washington has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture or killing.
Berg’s father, brother and sister wept in their front yard Tuesday when told of the video.
“I knew he was decapitated before,” said his father, Michael. “That manner is preferable to a long and torturous death. But I didn’t want it to become public.”
The father said “there’s a better chance than not” that his son’s captors knew he was Jewish. “If there was any doubt that they were going to kill him, that probably clinched it, I’m guessing,” he said.
Amnesty International condemned the killing as “a serious crime under international law,” and said those responsible should be brought to justice.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said there was “no justification for the deliberate and brutal killing of an innocent civilian.”
U.S. officials fear the savage killing might prompt more foreigners working on international reconstruction projects to flee the country. …
Last month, Iraqi militants also videotaped the killing of Italian hostage Fabrizio Quattrocchi.