CAIRO, Egypt – An Islamic Web site carried a videotape Wednesday that appeared to show militants in Iraq beheading a man identified as a CIA (search) agent. The authenticity of the videotape could not be verified immediately.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said CIA officials have accounted for all employees and no one is missing. U.S. officials were working to determine if the tape was authentic, the official said.
The Internet site, which Islamic extremists often use to post tapes and statements, displayed footage of eight militants surrounding a seated man. A sign around the man's neck showed his photograph and carried a message saying he was a CIA agent and what appeared to be an official pass bearing the word "visitor" written in English.
The footage, titled "Video of the beheading of an American CIA operative in Iraq," lasted more than four minutes and included several scenes, including a masked militant holding a large knife to the captive's throat.
On the tape, a man was heard telling the captive in Arabic "put down your hand, this is the last time, next time I will gouge your eyes out." Then in English, he tells the captive, "open your eyes, open your eyes."
The footage was shot during the daylight hours in a house that appeared to be in a rural area. Date palm trees could be seen behind a mud brick wall. The location of the house was not given in the videotape.
The page on the Web site that carried the footage also included the word Al Qaeda, the militant group headed by Usama bin Laden and blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. There was nothing else to linking Al Qaeda to the tape.
The eight militants shown on the tape were armed, one with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and wore traditional black or white Arab robes that are often seen in rural Iraq.
The captive, who appeared to be Caucasian and wore a brown T-shirt and light-colored pants, was shown seated on a chair in what appeared to be the courtyard of a house surrounded by eight masked militants.
In a subsequent shot, a masked man was shown standing alongside the captive holding a large saber-like sword. The masked man then chops repeatedly at the captive's neck, severing the head.
The militant then held the head aloft and other voices repeatedly yelled "Allahu Akbar" -- Arabic for God is Great.
The tape did not identify the group shown in the footage. Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for previous beheadings in Iraq, including American businessman Nicholas Berg (search).
At least three Americans are known to be missing in Iraq -- U.S. Army Spc. Keith M. Maupin (search) and civilian contract workers William Bradley and Timothy Bell. The men have not been seen since an April 9 attack on a fuel convoy, although Arab television reported June 29 that Maupin had been killed. The U.S. military has said it could not confirm the death.
They are among at least 80 people taken hostage in Iraq in recent months -- some for ransom and some by militants seeking to drive foreign soldiers from the country.
On Saturday, a video posted on a militant Web site that purportedly showed an American being decapitated in Iraq was a hoax. The man shown in the video said he videotaped the staged beheading at his friend's house using fake blood.