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Al-Jazeera: Militants kill missing soldier


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Matt Maupin was captured April 9.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Arabic-language television network Al-Jazeera reports it has received a statement and a videotape from militants who claimed to have killed 20-year-old U.S. Army Spc. Matt Maupin, missing since April.

The network aired a video of Maupin speaking that closely resembled a tape from his captors soon after his capture April 9.

That was followed by a second or two of dark, grainy footage showing someone kneeling on the ground with his back to the camera.

Al-Jazeera said Monday the statement from the group said its members shot Maupin.

Senior Pentagon officials said the poor-quality, murky video was inconclusive and they could not say whether the person on the tape was Maupin. But officials said the videotape did show someone being shot.

Maupin -- whose full name is Keith Matthew Maupin but is called Matt by his friends and family -- is an Army reservist from Batavia, Ohio, outside Cincinnati. (Full story)

He was captured in an attack on a fuel convoy in which three American workers for Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of the energy services giant Halliburton, were killed. Sgt. Elmer Krause was listed as missing and his remains were recovered April 23. (Full story)

Maupin and Krause were assigned to the 724th Transportation Company, based in Bartonville, Illinois.

Also captured was KBR contractor Thomas Hamill, who escaped and was recovered by U.S. forces in early May. (Full story)

Earlier Monday, Pentagon sources told CNN the Army had sent a casualty assistance officer to the home of Maupin's family in Batavia.

Maj. Willie Harris, an Army spokesman who also visited the family, said relatives and friends had been gathering at the home throughout the day. President Bush met with Maupin's family June 21.

Harris said Maupin was a private first class when he was captured, but was promoted to specialist May 1.

In Baghdad, the handover of Iraqi sovereignty was completed Monday -- two days earlier than expected. The surprise transfer of power occurred in a brief, low-key ceremony. Members of the interim government took an oath of office shortly afterward. (Full story)

NATO leaders meeting at a summit in Istanbul, Turkey, agreed to offer training to security forces of the new interim government. (Full story)

But violence continued to wrack the nation. A British soldier was killed and two wounded in a roadside bombing in Basra, while insurgents were also threatening to kill one Pakistani and three Turkish hostages.

Father pleads for Marine's safety

Meanwhile, the father of a U.S. Marine reported kidnapped in Iraq pleaded for his son's safe release Monday.

A coalition military spokesman in Baghdad confirmed to CNN that Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun is missing in Iraq. However, the official stopped short of saying Hassoun may be a hostage.

Speaking from his home in the Lebanese city of Tripoli, Ali Mohammed Hassoun told Al-Jazeera that his son, Cpl. Wassef Hassoun, is an Arabic translator for the Marines.

"I ask them for the sake of God, Prophet Muhammad and their children to release my son, and I thank them and they will have a great reward from God," Hassoun said in a telephone interview. A Pentagon official said the missing Marine might have a wife in Lebanon.

In a videotape broadcast Sunday on Al-Jazeera, a man identified as Hassoun appeared as the captive of armed men who displayed his Marine identification papers. One of the captors brandished a sword above the man's head.

On the tape, a speaker said the man was lured from his base and captured. His captors threatened to kill him unless U.S. military authorities release Iraqi prisoners.

A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said Hassoun, a member of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, was last seen June 19 and reported missing June 20. But U.S. authorities would not confirm that Hassoun is the man who appeared in the video.

Appearing with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the NATO summit in Turkey, President Bush said Monday that the insurgents were taking hostages because "They can't whip our militaries."

"What they can do is get on your TV screens and stand in front of your TV cameras and cut someone's head off in order to get us to cringe and retreat. That's their strongest weapon," he said.

Hassoun's father said the U.S. military notified his other son, who lives in the United States, that his brother was missing.

In West Jordan, Utah, Tarek Nosseir, a friend of the family, read a brief statement to reporters outside the family's home Sunday evening.

"In the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate, we accept destiny with its good and its bad," Nosseir said. "We pray and we plead for his safe release and we ask all people of the world to join us in our prayers. May God bless us all."

Other captives

Insurgents battling U.S.-led forces in Iraq have killed at least four hostages in a string of kidnappings that began in April.

Two of them -- American businessman Nicholas Berg and South Korean translator Kim Sun-il -- have been beheaded in killings blamed on a group called Unification and Jihad that U.S. officials say is led by fugitive Islamic militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi, who U.S. officials say is linked to al-Qaeda, has a bounty of $10 million for his capture.

In another videotape delivered to CNN and other news outlets over the weekend, insurgents also claimed to be holding a Pakistani man working for a subcontractor of Kellogg, Brown & Root.

The man's captors threatened to behead the hostage identified as Amjad Yousef Hafeez, unless the United States released Iraqi prisoners.

Al-Jazeera also aired footage over the weekend of three Turks held by militants who said they were following in the footsteps of Unification and Jihad and would behead the men unless Turkish companies left Iraq.

Turkey rejected the kidnappers' demands Sunday. "Turkey has been fighting terrorist activity for more than 20 years," Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said.

"They ask many things, they demand many things. We never consider them with seriousness." (Full story)


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