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Marine insists he was abducted

July 19, 2004 at 4:21 PM

WASHINGTON, July 19 (UPI) -- The Marine who went missing from his Iraqi base in June told reporters Monday he had been captured and held against his will by insurgent forces for 19 days.

In his first public statement since he reappeared July 8 in his native Lebanon, Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun attempted to put down speculation that he had gone AWOL.

"I did not desert my post," Hassoun told reporters at Quantico Marine Base, about 30 miles south of Washington, D.C.

Marine Corps spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Lapan said the military reviewed the text of Hassoun's statement in advance to be sure he said nothing to compromise classified information but made no changes to the statement.

"I'd like to tell all the Marines in Iraq to keep their heads up and their spirits high. Once a Marine, always a Marine. Semper fi," Hassoun concluded.

Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents have not yet spoken to Hassoun, who is still undergoing a lengthy repatriation process meant to care for his physical and mental health. Lapan said Hassoun "has not shown any reluctance to return to full duty when the time is appropriate."

Many questions remain unanswered, including how he was captured on a heavily guarded base on June 20, where he was held and by whom, why he was set free and how he got to Lebanon, which does not share a border with Iraq.

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