BAGHDAD, July 3 — A militant group claimed Saturday that it had beheaded a U.S. Marine kidnapped last week in Iraq. The group said on a Web site that it would release a videotape showing the execution of Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, but there was no confirmation that he had been killed.
Hassoun, a member of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, was last seen Sunday in a video aired by the Arab satellite television network al-Jazeera blindfolded and with a curved sword held over his neck. A group calling itself Islamic Response said it had captured Hassoun and would kill him unless all detainees held by the U.S. military in Iraq were freed. If carried out, it would be the third decapitation of a foreign hostage in Iraq in two months.
The report of the killing came during a new wave of violence across the country. Seven members of the Iraqi National Guard were killed in a roadside bomb attack at a checkpoint south of Baghdad, and a Marine died of wounds sustained Friday in an attack south of the capital. U.S. forces, meanwhile, raided a weapons-making facility and captured dozens of Iraqis who the soldiers said were preparing car bombs.
The Internet statement saying that Hassoun, 24, had been killed was signed by a group calling itself the Ansar al-Sunna Army. The statement said: “We would like to inform you that the Marine of Lebanese origin, Hassoun, has been slaughtered. You are going to see the video with your very eyes soon.” It was not clear what connection the group had to Islamic Response.
Hassoun, a Lebanese American, disappeared from his unit in Iraq on June 19. The statement issued on Saturday said he had been lured into captivity by a love affair. The U.S. military has said that the circumstances of his absence are under investigation.
Members of Hassoun’s family in West Jordan, Utah, were in seclusion Saturday, praying and awaiting official word, Shuaib-Ud Din, the imam at Khadeeja mosque in nearby West Valley City, told the Associated Press. He said he met with family members for about 15 minutes at their home Saturday, where about two dozen flags were placed in the yard in recent days. The imam cautioned the public against automatically believing reports out of the Middle East.
Al-Jazeera received a videotape Monday purportedly showing another captured American, Spec. Keith M. Maupin, 20, being shot in the head. Maupin was one of two soldiers and seven contractors who were traveling in a fuel-truck convoy on April 9 when they were ambushed with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades in a western suburb of Baghdad. U.S. officials said they did not know whether the man shown was Maupin, and a body had not been recovered.
By Doug Struck
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, July 4, 2004; Page A01