Family of Lebanese-born Marine tensely waiting for confirmation of word he's freed

WEST JORDAN, Utah (AP) - A glimmer of hope grew in this Salt Lake City suburb on word Tuesday from a relative in Lebanon that an U.S. Marine abducted in Iraq was well and might even have been freed.

Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, a translator with the Marines in Iraq, disappeared on June 20. On Saturday a militant group claimed it had beheaded him, a claim that was later denied.

On Tuesday, a brother of the Lebanon-born Marine said the family was confident he was well.

"We have received reliable information the guy is free," Sami Hassoun told The Associated Press from the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, where the missing Marine has family.

Though he had not spoken with his brother, Sami Hassoun said "we received a sign from my brother reassuring us."

There was no immediate response to calls seeking comment from Wassef Ali Hassoun's family in West Jordan or from family spokesman Tarek Nosseir.

On Monday, a group calling itself Islamic Response had said in a statement sent to Al-Jazeera television that he was safe and had promised not to return to the American military.

"We pray that the news of his safe release is true," Nosseir said Monday. "If he is still in captivity, we remind the captors of the saying of our beloved prophet: Be merciful to those on earth, mercy will descend upon you from heaven."

The family had been grieving since Saturday, when a militant group claiming to be the Ansar al-Sunna Army said on a Web site that it had beheaded the 24-year-old Marine. But the group said Sunday it did not issue the statement, and a posting on another Internet site said Hassoun was alive.

Hassoun, educated at American schools in his native Lebanon before moving to the Salt Lake City area, was serving his second stint in Iraq as a translator fluent in Arabic, French and English.

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.

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.

"We renew our request of all people of the world to continue to pray for his safe release," said Nosseir, who has spoken for Hassoun's brother, Mohammed, and family in West Jordan.


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