U.S. and Iraqi leaders have vowed to track down the men who captured and beheaded a 26-year-old American contractor from Philadelphia named Nicholas Berg. A video of the beheading appeared on a website Tuesday connected to Al Qaeda. The killers said the murder was revenge for the prison abuse of Iraqis taking place at the Abu Ghraib prison. The video captures Berg saying “My name is Nick Berg, my father’s name is Michael, my mother’s name is Suzanne. I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah.” The group that carried out the murder claimed it had ties to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In a statement the group said “The worst is coming and, God willing, the tough days are still to come. You and your soldiers will regret the day that you touched the ground of Iraq.”” Berg was working in Iraq as an independent businessman fixing communication antennas. He was last seen on April 9. He was originally scheduled to return home to the United States on March 30, but a week before his departure he was detained by Iraqi police at a checkpoint in Mosul and turned over to U.S. officials. He was held for 13 days though it remains unclear as to why. He was released on April 6, a day after his family filed a suit in federal court against the US charging that the US was illegally holding their son. Three days after his release he was to never be seen again. His decapitated body was found Saturday on a highway overpass in Baghdad. His father, Michael Berg, said Nicholas may still be alive if he had been allowed to leave the country on March 30 when he was scheduled to. He said '’He was arrested and held without due process. The time he got out, the whole area was inflamed with violence.'’
On Capitol Hill Tuesday, the author of the Pentagon’s report on Iraqi prison abuses, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, blamed a failure of leadership for the Iraqi prison problems but he denied there were orders from above to carry out the abuse. Taguba and the Pentagon undersecretary for intelligence Stephen Cabone clashed over who had control of the prison, military intelligence or military police. Taguba said his research found that military intelligence were given the authority for handling the detainees even though that went against military doctrine.
60 Minutes II is planning to air a home video from Iraq tonight where a young U.S. soldier who served at Abu Ghraib prison says on camera “We’ve already had two prisoners die — but who cares? That’s two less for me to worry about.” CBS said it is not going to identify the soldier by name. Two weeks ago, 60 Minutes II broadcast for the first time images of prison abuse in Iraq sparking the recent scandal.
In Karbala, U.S. forces attacked a mosque Tuesday in what the New York Times described as the largest assault against the forces of Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr so far. At least13 Iraqis died. But signs emerged that the U.S. and Sadr may be close to reaching a truce. The new U.S.-appointed governor of Najaf promised that court proceedings against Sadr would be suspended if he disarmed his militia. And U.S. General Martin Dempsey has proposed setting an Iraqi force that includes some of Sadr’s followers to patrol the Najaf.
On Tuesday President Bush issued strict new sanctions against Syria claiming that Syria presents a “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.” In a statement Bush said Syria was pursuing weapons of mass destruction, supporting terrorism and was undermining U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad responded by saying it was the U.S. not Syria creating instability in the Middle East. Assad said “For the first time the United States has turned into a source of instability instead of stability… The war in Iraq has unleashed a hatred that is finding an echo in terrorism.”
The vice chairman of the 9/11 commission Lee Hamilton announced Tuesday the commission would likely interview two top Al Qaeda suspects about the Sept. 11 attacks. Hamilton didn’t name the suspects but the Los Angeles Times reported that it is likely Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, who are both accused of masterminding the attacks.
In Afghanistan, the American embassy there has announced the U.S. military has opened an investigation into allegations that an Afghan police officer was stripped naked, beaten and photographed at a U.S. base.
Brazil has announced it is expelling a New York Times reporter from the country after he wrote an article suggesting that President Luiz Inacio da Silva had a drinking problem that was affecting how he governed.