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U.S. Man Beheaded In Retribution For Iraqi Prison Abuses

12 May 2004 -- A website linked to Al-Qaeda has posted a video showing an Islamic militant beheading an American civilian in Iraq.

One of the masked militants shown in the video says the 26-year-old American, Nick Berg, was executed to avenge the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops at the Abu Ghurayb prison.

The website says the execution was carried out by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a suspected associate of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who is accused by the United States of organizing bombings and terrorist attacks in Iraq. Some terrorism experts disputed the claim that it was al-Zarqawi, saying they weren't sure it was his voice on the video.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the decapitation shows "the true nature of the enemies of freedom." He said the United States would pursue those responsible and bring them to justice.

At a U.S. Senate committee hearing in Washington, the author of an internal U.S. army report on the abuses at the Abu Ghurayb prison said a breakdown of leadership in the American armed forces led to the mistreatment. Major General Antonio Taguba said: "Failure in leadership, sir, from the brigade commander on down, lack of discipline, no training whatsoever, and no supervision [led to the abuses]. Supervisory omission was rampant."

Taguba, however, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he did not find any evidence of a policy or direct order given to soldiers to carry out the abuse. Taguba said he believed the troops conducted the abuse "on their own volition."

U.S. senators are expected today to view another set of images of abuse at Abu Ghurayb that have not been made public.