A U.S. Marine who was reported missing in Iraq more than two weeks ago is alive and well at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, authorities said Thursday.
Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun appears to be in good health, said a Pentagon official, according to The AP. "We picked him up in Beirut," said embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth Wharton. She added Hassoun arrived at the fortified embassy in the hilly Aukar suburb accompanied by relatives.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Hassoun arrived at the embassy around 6 p.m..
Earlier in the day, the American Embassy said it had "credible information" that Hassoun was safe in his native Lebanon.
There have been several contradictory reports about the fate of him since he disappeared. An Iraqi group said Monday it was holding the 24-year-old Muslim in a safe place.
On Saturday, a statement posted on a Web site known for another group said Hassoun had been beheaded.
The Marines said Hassoun disappeared on "unauthorized leave," but changed his status to "captured" after he turned up June 27 on television blindfolded with a sword hanging over his head.
Some of those claiming to be the captors have said he was romantically involved with an Arab woman and was lured away from his Marine base and captured. There also were reports that Hassoun might have been trying to get to Lebanon when he was captured.
Some reports also have said Hassoun fled his camp near the Iraqi city of Fallujah after seeing one of his colleagues killed by a mortar shell.
On its part, NBC reported that the Navy was investigating whether Hassoun's disappearance may be part of a "kidnapping hoax."
"I don't think they're ruling that out. It would be fair to say they're not ruling that out," said Maj. Nat Fahy.
Meanwhile Thursday, a gunbattle broke out in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli between members of Hassoun's clan and people accusing them of being American collaborators, Lebanese security and hospital officials said.
Two people were killed, but they were not members of the Hassoun clan, which numbers more than 1,000 people, officials said. (Albawaba.com)
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