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US Marine Who Disappeared Says He Did Not Desert - 2004-07-19


An American Muslim Marine who was reported to have been kidnapped by extremists in Iraq has spoken about his ordeal for the first time since his return to the United States last week. But at the Pentagon, the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun still remain unknown amid an on going investigation by the military.

Corporal Hassoun made only a very brief statement at the U.S. Marine base at Quantico, Virginia Monday, one that failed to clear up the mystery of his reported abduction in Iraq, or how he turned up at the U.S. Embassy in his native Lebanon days later, unharmed.

"I did not desert my post. I was captured and held against my will by anti-coalition forces for 19 days" he said. "This was a very difficult and challenging time for me."

The 24-year-old Marine was deployed in Iraq as an Arabic language translator. After disappearing from his base near Fallujah, a picture of him blindfolded and with a knife above his head was broadcast on Arab television and he was later reported to have been beheaded.

But then, just days later, another Islamic group reported him to be in safe hands. The mystery of his disappearance only deepened further when he somehow found his way from Iraq to Lebanon where he was brought to the American embassy earlier this month.

Despite his claim to have been captured, military investigators have not ruled out the possibility that the whole episode was a cover for Corporal Hassoun to desert his unit and return to his family in Lebanon

"We're not in a position at this point to make a judgment either way," said Marine spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan. We are still gathering facts and information and until that process is complete, at this point we are supporting our young Marine in bringing him back from a very harrowing ordeal and supporting his return to duty."

While investigators have yet to question Corporal Hassoun, the Marines say he has not expressed any reluctance to return to full duty, which could still be weeks or months away.

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