Shock over Militant Slaying of American

05/12/2004 at 09:00 AM EDT

Shock over Militant Slaying of American
AP
America woke up Wednesday to a horrific sight on its TV screens and newspaper front pages: Photos of 26-year-old Pennsylvania businessman Nicholas Berg about to be beheaded by five masked Islamic militants said to be avenging the U.S. military abuses at the Abu Ghraid prison near Baghdad.

The grisly execution of Berg surfaced Tuesday in a fuzzy video posted on the Internet site of Muntada al-Ansar, an organization linked to the al Qaeda terrorist network.

Berg, who reportedly last contacted his family back home in West Chester, Pa., on April 9, had been missing in Iraq since about that time. A news photo showing his father, Michael, collapsed on the front lawn of the family home as he is embraced in the arms of his son David was reportedly taken after the Bergs received the news.

In the video, Berg, restrained and wearing an orange jumpsuit, is shown on the floor in front of his captors as they read a statement (in Arabic) about the suffering of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of American soldiers. There is no date on the video, though the killing is believed to have occurred over this past weekend.

Berg's murder is highly reminiscent of the early 2002 slaughter of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. Both men were Jewish, though it is being said that Berg's religion was not mentioned in the killers' statement.

What is said, according to reports: "We tell you the dignity of the Muslim men and women in Abu Ghraib and other is not redeemed except by blood and souls," the man, believed to be Abu Musab Zarqawi (a Jordanian terrorist), says. "You will not receive anything from us but coffins after coffins ... slaughtered in this way."

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