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Marine's brother begs for his release

U.S. official: Corporal now considered captured

Sami Hassoun pleads for the release of his brother, Cpl. Wassef Hassoun.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The brother of a U.S. Marine missing in Iraq said Tuesday that a blindfolded man shown in a video with a curved sword above his head is his brother and pleaded for his captors to "just release him."

"He's just a soldier doing his job like any other person," Sami Hassoun said in a telephone interview from his home in Beirut, Lebanon.

"Please leave him, for the sake of God, for the sake of his mom and dad."

The U.S. military said Cpl. Wassef Hassoun, a Marine translator, was last seen June 19 and was reported missing the following day when he did not report for duty.

Hassoun has been classified as captured, a senior Defense Department official said Tuesday, but there has been no official announcement.

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

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

"It is him, 100 percent," Sami Hassoun said of the hostage on the video. "I wish it was not him.

"We're Muslims like they are. It is not possible that Islam says to kill these people. And there's no religion in the whole world that supports a kidnapper and a killer. No morals, no ethics."

The military believes it is unlikely that Hassoun was captured from the base, the Defense Department official said.

Hassoun is a member of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. A Pentagon official said he speaks Arabic and may have a wife in Lebanon.

The Pentagon thinks he initially left the base on unauthorized leave, perhaps hoping to reach his family in Lebanon, the Defense Department official said.

The official said the corporal was thought to be having "family problems."

The official said the military is investigating whether Hassoun had money when he disappeared.

On Monday, Hassoun's father appeared on Al-Jazeera and pleaded for his son's release.

"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 from his home in Tripoli, Lebanon.

Appearing with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the NATO summit in Turkey, President Bush said Monday that the insurgents are 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.

Other hostages

Insurgents in Iraq claimed in a videotape released early Monday to have killed Army Spc. Matt Maupin, who was captured April 9 when his convoy was ambushed outside Baghdad. U.S. officials have been unable to confirm the claim.

Insurgents battling U.S.-led coalition forces have killed at least three 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. It is led by fugitive Islamic militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Italian Fabrizio Quattrocchi was executed shortly after he and three other Italians were kidnapped April 12.

In another videotape delivered over the weekend, insurgents also claimed to be holding a Pakistani man working for a subcontractor of the U.S. construction contractor Kellogg Brown & Root. The man's captors threatened to behead the hostage, identified as Amjad Yousef Hafeez, unless the United States releases Iraqi prisoners.

Al-Jazeera also broadcast footage over the weekend of three Turks apparently held captive by Unification and Jihad. Their captors threatened to behead the men unless Turkish companies left Iraq. But Tuesday, the Turks reportedly telephoned the Turkish Embassy to say they had been released.

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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