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News, documents and analysis on violent extremism

Friday, May 21, 2004

Saddam Militiaman Arrested In Berg Killing, But Details Are Murky

By J.M. Berger

Unnamed Iraqi officials today told the Associated Press that they had arrested four members of Saddam Hussein's former Fedayeeen militia for the killing of U.S. citizen Nicholas Berg.

A great deal of ambiguity surrounded the reports, which were anonymously sourced. It appears some suspects may have already been released, and it's quite possible none of them are connected to the killing.

The arrests took place several days ago and were first reported by AFP earlier this week. According to AP, the group arrested were led by Yasser al-Sabawi, whom AP describes as a nephew of Saddam Hussein. al-Sabawi was not arrested, AP reported. The evidence on which the arrests were made was not immediately known. AP said Interior Minister Samir Shaker Mahmoud al-Sumeidi refused to comment on the report.

AP reported that all four were still in custody. AP also reported that an anonymous U.S. military official confirmed that four suspects were arrested but did not provide further details.

But CNN reported that two of the suspects have already been released, and said that the two remaining in custody may also be released soon, according to an unnamed U.S. military official.

It's unclear what relationship -- if any -- the arrested men may have had to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whom U.S. officials have identified as the individual who actually killed and beheaded Berg on a videotape subsequently released over the Internet.

Despite various claims by U.S. officials prior to the invasion of Iraq, no compelling evidence has surfaced to suggest cooperation between the al Qaeda-linked Zarqawi and the Saddam regime prior to the invasion. Scattered reports have indicated some cooperation in attacks on U.S. occupation forces and cooperating Iraqis, but even these have not been strongly conclusive.

A video recording of the Berg slaying identified Zarqawi as the killer and featured a statement apparently read by Zarqawi. The CIA and some media reports have confirmed that the voice is Zarqawi's, but the low-quality video and the mask on the killer's face make it uncertain whether the figure in the video is actually the source of the voice speaking. There are other audio irregularities on the video, and Zarqawi's voice could have been dubbed in.

Related story:

Debunking (And Rebunking) The Nick Berg Conspiracy Theories

External links: - Two held in Berg beheading case -- CNN

Four Arrested in Iraq for Berg Killing -- AP


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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