Fate of captured Marine in Iraq unknown
As of Sunday afternoon (Middle East time) the fate of a U.S. Marine abducted by an Iraqi group was unknown.
In the latest development, an Islamic group denied in a statement posted on its Web site Sunday that it had killed the Marine taken hostage last month.
The Ansar al-Sunna Army issued the statement in response to reports by the Lebanese Foreign Ministry that the group killed Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, an American of Lebanese descent.
The Lebanese statement followed a declaration in the name of Ansar al-Sunna posted Saturday on two other Islamist Web sites that it had beheaded Hassoun.
"The media have published, quoting the Lebanese foreign ministry, that the Ansar al-Sunna Army has killed the American hostage, from Lebanese origin, who was kidnapped in Iraq," the statement said.
"In order to maintain our credibility in all issues we say that this statement that was attributed to us was baseless," the statement said. It added that any statement in its name "that is not published through our site does not represent us."
The original claim of having kidnapped the Marine was issued in the name of "Islamic Response," the security wing of the "National Islamic Resistance - 1920 Revolution Brigades," rather than the Ansar al-Sunna Army.
Early on Sunday, Lebanon's state-run news agency, citing the Foreign Ministry, reported, the U.S. Marine has been killed. The ministry said it was informed of the death of Hassoun by Lebanon's charge d'affairs in Baghdad.
The agency quoted Foreign Minister Jean Obeid as saying Hassoun's killing was "irreligious, immoral and inhumane."
On Saturday, a declaration by a group calling itself the Ansar al-Sunna Army claimed that it had beheaded Hassoun, adding it would release video backing up that assertion.
A Lebanese foreign ministry official said that Hassoun was believed to have been killed. The official told The AP Sunday, said the ministry received a call from Lebanon's chief of mission in Baghdad saying Hassoun had been killed.
"He (the diplomat) is trying to confirm the killing 100 percent, but it seems to be over. He is now trying to learn where his body is. He believes it is in Fallujah," the official told The Associated Press in Beirut. "We understand that he was slaughtered. God help him."
After the Web site claim, Hassoun's brother, Sami, said from the northern city of Tripoli his family had no word on Hassoun's fate. The Marines' relatives in Utah went into seclusion at their home after the first Web site posting.
Foreign Minister Jean Obeid said, "those who carried out the killing are the enemies of their religion and any religion."
"It is necessary to confront those who hide behind slogans, sects and religions," Obeid said.
Hassoun's father, Ali Hassoun, who lives in Tripoli, had repeatedly pleaded for his son's release. He and his other sons also had contacted politicians and Muslim clerics in Lebanon and Islamist groups in Iraq in hopes of securing the Marine's release.
Family members said Hassoun was born in Lebanon, educated at American schools there, then joined the Marines after moving to the Salt Lake City area. The 24-year-old Hassoun, fluent in Arabic, French and English, was serving the Marines as a translator in his second stint in Iraq when he was captured. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)