Report: Abducted Marine was deserter

June 30, 2004 at 7:59 AM
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BAGHDAD, June 30 (UPI) -- A U.S. Marine being held under threat of death by Iraqi insurgents was captured while trying to desert his unit, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

A Marine officer told the Times on condition of anonymity Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, 24, witnessed one of his sergeants being blown apart by a mortar shell and was emotionally devastated.

Hassoun, a fluent Arabic-speaker and native of Lebanon, had been living with his family in West Jordan, Utah, outside Salt Lake City. He joined the Marine Corps to work as a translator.

"He talked to some folks on base he befriended because they were all fellow Muslims, and they helped sneak him off," the officer told the Times. "Once off, instead of helping him get home, they turned him over to the bad guys."

Marine officials said Sunday Hassoun had been missing since June 21. On Sunday, the Qatar-based television network al-Jazeera broadcast a videotape showing him blindfolded with a sword over his head.

Monday, his official military status was changed from missing to captured.

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