The Death of Nick Berg: Muslim Perspective
Discrepancies in the Berg Timeline and Video

May 22, 2004

Berg's killers did not sound like native Arab speakers and al-Zarqawi (right) lost a leg in a US missile strike in 1991.
The Death of Nick Berg
A Muslim Perspective

By Prof. Sam Hamod (May 15, 2004)

All human beings must give their condolences to the family of Nick Berg who was ignominiously beheaded. This is a heinous and brutal crime and anyone who would do this is a sinner, an animal, and a brute. If captured and proven guilty, those who perpetrated this crime should be punished to the full extent of the law.

If it was Muslims in Iraq, or wherever -- because we actually don't know if he was beheaded in Iraq or elsewhere -- we as Muslims condemn such behavior by whoever did it. Mr. Berg, from my understanding, was a person who was working on communications towers for the good of the Iraqi people; he was not a combatant or a mercenary who might have killed or hurt anyone.

Islam makes clear, you do not kill innocent people. The Qur'an states, "To kill one innocent man or woman is to kill all of humanity; to save one human is to save all of humanity."

I say, "If it was Muslims" because there are many other players in Iraq at this time, and we can't be sure it was Muslims or Arabs. There are elements of the slaying that make it appear it may not have been Muslims. When Muslims execute a person, it must be after a proper trial, with credible witnesses, and the person who does the execution must say a prayer for the person being killed and to ask forgiveness for doing the killing. None of this was done. Also, a proper way of killing in this situation is to cut the throat in one swoop, not to hack at a person's neck.

Muslims do not often cut off the head, but do execute by law, but not by revenge as in this case, though some Middle Easterners may do it by culture and tradition (that is still not allowed in Islam). It may have been Muslims in Iraq who were taking revenge for the torture at Abu Ghraib as was alleged in the tape, but if it was, they were acting as part of the culture of the Middle East and not as Muslims. There is a long tradition, practiced by the Arabs (Muslims and Christians) and Jews of revenge for a misdeed against one's family or people, but this is against Islamic law.

Strange Matters
There is another strange matter that troubles me. Why was Mr. Berg picked up by coalition forces and imprisoned…. The military says it released him, but suddenly he disappeared....

Why was Mr. Berg in an American-issued orange jump suit -- the kind Americans put prisoners in, when he was photographed and killed? The Iraqis or other Arabs would have had him in Arab clothing so as not to draw suspicion to him -- not an orange jump suit.

Also, the way the men were standing and their size: As a person experienced in the Middle East, most Arabs don't stand that way and most Iraqis are not that tall. The men stand more like Westerners of some sort, or even Israelis, but not like Arabs or Iraqis.

There are many Americans and Israelis who speak excellent Arabic but no Muslim would do that awkward "Allahu Ahkbar." It was strained, it was not a natural voicing of that phrase, "God is great." I am now wondering more and more who actually did this heinous deed. It may also be that this was perpetrated by Israeli agents, who have been operating in Iraq since the American invasion and have been advisors and combatants for [the US security firm] Blackwater and for the US military, especially in interrogation techniques.

I remember in the early 1980's when the Mossad of Israel shot Israel's own ambassador to London to help justify the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. (You may recall the general who led the brutal assault was none other than Ariel Sharon; the present brutal prime minister of Israel.)

We must also ask the question intelligence agencies use: "Who would most benefit from this act?" In this case, if not Israel, then Bush and America to take the heat off of the US for the brutality of the torture in Iraq and Guantanamo…. Since the killers were hooded, we can't know who they were. It could have been American counter-insurgency agents, CIA or mercenaries who did this at a time when the glare of anger toward the US was growing in the world. I don't know that this is true, but having worked in intelligence situations, I know it has been done in the past.

A Short History of State-sponsored Lies
Remember, also that the Nazis blew up the Bundestag to blame it on the Jews and others who they wanted to punish. America also used the boiler explosion on the USS Maine as a pretext for the Spanish American War by blaming it on Spain (even though it our intelligence knew it was simply a result of the boiler blowing up).

We pushed into Vietnam after a false report of an attack on one of our ships in the Bay of Tonkin. Our nation has not always been lily-white in matters of truth when we wanted to take an action -- we found ways to justify matters, or to lie to our advantage.

We even allowed our own Navy men to be killed on the USS Liberty in order to allow the Israelis freedom to do a sneak attack on Egypt --not allowing our own airplanes to go to the rescue of the Liberty when Israeli planes and torpedo boats were attacking it. To this day, the US has not allowed the Liberty case to be opened, or the men to be compensated, even though Admirals have asked for an open naval inquiry as to why President Johnson... called back American planes that were going to the rescue of the Liberty.

Israel has never been reprimanded for the attack, though clearly the ship had American flags, gave American signals and did not look like any Egyptian or Arab vessels....

As a Muslim leader, I condemn this act by whoever did it. If it was an alleged "Muslim," then they are condemned to hell. But it may have been others from some other country who did it to put blame on the Muslims of Iraq.

Remember, many Israelis speak Arabic as well as Arabs themselves, so we can't take the Arabic on the tape as being from Arabs. We also know that some of the mercenaries and American military speak Arabic.

We may never know if this heinous act was perpetrated by Arabs, Muslims, Israelis or American counter-insurgency operatives or even mercenaries who work for Halliburton, Brown & Root or Bechtel or Blackwater Security.

We have to keep an open mind on exactly who did this because there are so many angles to this deed. The people it hurts most are the family of Nick Berg, but America and Israel benefit from this the most because it makes the Arabs and Muslims look like savages and brutes. If these were Arabs or Muslims, then these men are brutes and should be punished if they can be captured and proven guilty of this terrible deed.

Prof. Sam Hamod is the former Director of The Islamic Centre of Washington, DC; editor of 3rd World News. He was born and raised in Gary, Indiana.

Discrepancies in the Berg Timeline
Compiled by Gar Smith

(Left) Nick Berg, in a US-style prison jumpsuit, awaits his fate seated on a white plastic chair. (Right) Pfc. Lynddie England poses in an identical white plastic chair inside Abu Ghraib Prison.
  • US officials claim that, after his arrest in Mosul on March 30, Nick Berg was held by Iraqi police and was "at no time under the jurisdiction or detention of coalition forces."

  • Mosul Police Chief Maj. Gen. Mohammed Khair al-Barhawi insists: "Iraqi police had never arrested the slain American… such reports are baseless."

  • A State Department official, told Berg's family that their son was "currently detained in Mosul, Iraq, by the US military" and diplomats "no longer [had] any authority or power to intervene."

  • Berg subsequently told his family he had been held in US custody. Berg told freelance Chilean journalist Hugo Infante: "American soldiers put me in a jail for two weeks" where he was held with Syrians, Egyptians, Jordanians and Iranians and not allowed to make calls or contact a lawyer. If true, Berg's three visits from the FBI's occurred under US supervision.

  • When Berg vanished a second time on April 12, the State Department claimed they checked the Al-Fanar Hotel but "the people we talked to... didn't remember him being there." Hotel staffers subsequently told AP reporter Robert H. Reid that "Berg stayed in room 602 from April 6 until April 10."

  • Berg was missing for nearly a month. In every previous kidnapping, videos showing foreign hostages were quickly circulated to the world media. This didn't happen in Berg's case.

  • US Spokesperson Dan Senor claimed Berg was never "a US government employee" but Berg told his family his company had a contract to work for the US-controlled Iraqi Media Network.

  • The AP subsequently revealed that Nick Berg had "worked at night on a tower in Abu Ghraib" prison in December, during a period when Iraqi prisoners were subjected to torture (Robert H. Reid, AP, May 12, 2004).

    Discrepancies in the Berg Video

  • Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Richard Myers declared al-Zarqawi was "the lead perpetrator" in Berg's beheading. The CIA declared there was a "high possibility" the killer was al-Zarqawi. George W. Bush declared that al-Zarqawi was "the person responsible for the Berg death."

  • According to the FBI's wanted poster for al-Zarqawi, the US does not know Zarqawi's (A) height, (B) weight or, (C) color of his eyes.

  • The only means of confirming al Zarqawi's identity is voice analysis. Arabic speakers report that the voice on the tape lacks al-Zarqawi's Jordanian accent. "CNN staffers familiar with al-Zarqawi's voice said the voice on the tape did not sound like him." (

  • Berg is shown wearing a US Military Police-issued orange prison jumpsuit. The walls in the videos are the same color and texture as the yellow walls that appear in the torture photos taken inside the Abu Graib prison.

  • The masked men appear well-fed, even pudgy. One wears clean white tennis shoes. Background voices do not sound like Arabs.

  • The skin of the hands of some of the men is white: The FBI describes al-Zarqawi's complexion as "olive."

  • The killer reads the speech but keeps turning back to the same page. The speaker refers to the "Gracious Prophet Muhammad." In Islam, the word "Gracious" is only used to refer to Allah.

  • The killer wears a gold ring on his hand. The Qur'an forbids Muslim men from wearing jewelry and specifically bans the wearing of silver and gold. The killer wears the ring on his left hand -- the "unclean" hand used for bathroom functions.

  • Al-Zaqawri was reported killed in Afghanistan last year. Whether dead or alive, it is known that, in 1991, al-Zarqawri lost a leg in a US missile strike. The killer in the videotape does not appear to be disabled.

  • The videotape was labeled "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi Shown Slaughtering an American." If Al-Zawqari was so eager to claim credit for the killing, why did he wear a mask?

  • The white plastic chair Berg is shown sitting in appears identical to the chair Pfc. Lynddie England was shown posing on inside Abu Ghraib.

  • The video's soundtrack seems dubbed and is out-of-synch. After the killer pushes Berg over, the time-stamp on the video indicates a gap of nearly 11 hours passes before the decapitation begins.

  • The video is shot in segments. In the final segment, it is not clear that Berg is still alive. When his throat is cut, there is no outpouring of blood, a fact that suggests his heart was no longer beating.

  • A frame-by-frame analysis of the video by La Voz de Aztlan discovered that, during the beheading, "at frames 9306 through 9368, a person with a US military cap temporarily pokes about a quarter of his left head into the video." [Graphic video clip available at:]

    Other Oddities

  • The video posting was attributed to an al-Qaeda website in Malaysia. It was actually uploaded from a website in London. Washington's translation of the killer's statement mistakenly refers to "Al-Qaeda." There is no mention of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda in the recorded statement.

  • Berg's headless body was variously reported found on May 8, May 9, May 10 and "over the weekend, on Monday."

  • Although Berg was not a member of the US military, his body was flown to Dover AFB and his family was denied permission to meet the casket. The refusal came from the Department of Defense. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) called the refusal "inexplicable."

    For more information contact:

  • Home | Background | News | Links | Donate | Contact Us |

    (510) THE-EDGE (843-3343)
    E-mail us at