Iraqi militant group - Held U.S. Marine is alive

Tuesday, July 6, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- An Iraqi militant group said Monday it had not killed a U.S. Marine it was holding captive, Al-Jazeera television reported.

In a statement sent to Al-Jazeera, a group calling itself "Islamic Response," said it was holding Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, a U.S. Marine of Lebanese heritage. The group said he was safe at a location it did not identify.

On Saturday, a Web site posting claimed Hassoun had been beheaded. On Sunday, a second Web posting on another Internet site said Hassoun was alive.

The United States reported Hassoun, 24, missing after he did not report for duty at his base in Iraq on June 20. On June 27, Al-Jazeera broadcast a videotape showing Hassoun blindfolded along with a statement from militants threatening to kill him unless the United States released all Iraqis in "occupation jails." Militants held a curved sword over his head.

Other militant groups have captured and threatened to behead other foreign Muslim hostages, creating an uproar among many Muslims, including other militants. All the captured Muslims aside from Hassoun have been released unharmed.

The statement Monday claimed that Hassoun had promised not to return to the American military.

The statement was issued in the name of the same group that claimed initial responsibility on the June 27 video for the kidnapping. The group calls itself "Islamic Response," the security wing of the "National Islamic Resistance -- 1920 Revolution Brigades." The name refers to the uprising against the British after World War I.

Tarek Nosseir, a spokesman for the Hassoun family in West Jordan, Utah, declined comment Sunday.

Family members said Hassoun was born in Lebanon, educated at American schools there and then joined the Marines after moving to the Salt Lake City area. Hassoun, fluent in Arabic, French and English, was serving in the Marines as a translator in his second stint in Iraq when he was captured.

Hassoun's father, Ali Hassoun, who lives in Tripoli, Lebanon, repeatedly pleaded for his son's release. He and his other sons have contacted politicians and Muslim clerics in Lebanon and Islamist groups in Iraq in hopes of securing the Marine's release.

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