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Militant group: U.S. Marine is safe


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Iraqi Islamic militants say a captured Marine is in a safe place.

The new Iraqi government aided a U.S. airstrike in Fallujah.

Officials try to tighten the security of oil interests.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- An Iraqi Islamic military group said it has taken a kidnapped U.S. Marine to a safe place after he promised not to return to his military unit, according to a statement read Monday by the Arabic-language television network Al-Jazeera.

Cpl. Wassef Hassoun, a a 24-year-old Marine translator of Lebanese descent, was reported missing June 20 when he did not report for duty at his base in Iraq. He was last seen June 19.

Hassoun "has been sent to a safe place after he had announced his forgiveness and his determination not to go back to the U.S. forces," the group -- which calls itself "Islamic Response," the security wing of the Islamic Resistance of Iraq -- said in a statement faxed to Al-Jazeera and posted on the network's Web site.

The group said its members have treated Hassoun well.

There was no independent verification of any of the claims and there have been conflicting reports on his fate. Hassoun had earlier been reported killed.

On June 27, Al-Jazeera broadcast video of a man identified as Hassoun surrounded by armed men.

His captors showed his Marine identification papers, and one of them brandished a sword above his head.

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

On Sunday, another group, Ansar al-Sunna, denied reports that Hassoun had been beheaded.

"This statement quoting us is baseless, and it's not true at all," the militant group Ansar al-Sunna said in a statement posted on its Web site.

Hassoun is a member of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. He was trained as a truck driver but worked as a translator.

Outside the Hassoun home in West Jordan, Utah, where his relatives remain in seclusion, a spokesman read a statement from the family.

"In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate," read Tarek Nosseir, "at this point, we're uncertain of the destiny of our brother, our son, our friend Wassef. We pray that the news of his safe release is true. If he is still in captivity, we remind the captors of the saying of our beloved prophet ... be merciful to those on earth; mercy will descend upon you from heaven.

"We renew our request to all people of the world to continue to pray for his safe release."

U.S. strikes suspected safehouse

Officials said eight people died Monday in a U.S. air raid on a house in the Sunni Triangle city of Fallujah that American commanders said was used to harbor Islamic militants.

The target was a group of people suspected of planning suicide attacks using vehicles, a senior military official said.

The strike was the latest in a series of raids on the city on what U.S. military spokesmen have called safehouses for the network led by fugitive Islamic militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

U.S. officials blame al-Zarqawi, who is believed to have links to al Qaeda, for numerous attacks on civilians and the U.S.-led coalition.

He is also believed to be behind the beheading of two hostages in Iraq, an American and a South Korean.

American planes dropped two 1,000-pound bombs and four 500-pound bombs on the house, according to a statement from the U.S.-led Multi-National Force-Iraq.

"This operation employed precision weapons and underscores the resolve of multinational forces and Iraqi security forces to jointly destroy terrorist networks in Iraq," a military statement said.

A doctor at Fallujah Hospital said the dead included four men, a woman and three children, some of them members of the same family. Another three people were wounded, the doctor said.

A statement from interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said his government's security forces provided "clear and compelling intelligence" that led to the raid.

"The people of Iraq will not tolerate terrorist groups or those who collaborate with any other foreign fighters such as the Zarqawi network to continue their wicked ways," the statement said.

"The sovereign nation of Iraq and our international partners are committed to stopping terrorism and will continue to hunt down these evil terrorists and weed them out, one by one. I call upon all Iraqis to close ranks and report to the authorities on the activities of these criminal cells."

The United States last week raised the bounty on the head of al-Zarqawi to $10 million to $25 million in an effort to draw help from the Iraqi people in capturing him.

No amnesty yet for insurgent followers

Iraq's interim government delayed indefinitely an announcement on a possible partial-amnesty deal for low-level insurgents, a spokesman for Allawi said Monday.

Government spokesman George Sada said Sunday that none of the "hard-core" criminals -- including those accused of murder -- would be eligible for amnesty. Only those who were "misled" by the leaders of the insurgency would qualify, he said.

However, many questions about possible amnesty remain, including who would be covered by such a deal and how strict it would be.

The interim government hopes to use limited amnesty to weaken the ties within the insurgency between the former Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein and the militants, seen as a growing alliance.

Iraqi official sources have said an amnesty could cover 5,000 supporters of Saddam Hussein's former regime who are involved in the insurgency against Americans and the interim government. In exchange, they would be asked to disarm and for information leading to the capture or killing of insurgency leaders.

It was not clear if amnesty would cover Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shiite Muslim cleric charged by an Iraqi court in the April 2003 killing of a rival. His Mehdi Army militia has battled U.S. and other coalition troops for weeks in the southern Iraqi cities of Najaf and Karbala and the surrounding area.

Al-Sadr on Friday denounced the interim government in Iraq as no different from the U.S. occupation.

Still, Allawi said on ABC's "This Week" in a taped interview broadcast Sunday that al-Sadr had told the interim government through an intermediary that he wanted to participate in Iraq's new political process.

Other developments

  • One Iraqi was killed and two people, including a 2-year-old child, were wounded when mortar rounds missed a British military base and hit civilian houses near Basra on Monday. In other parts of Iraq, 13 people were wounded in three different roadside bomb attacks.
  • A spokesman for the interim Iraqi Interior Ministry said Ihsan Kareem, who was in charge of investigating allegations against the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq, was the intended target of the bomb that killed him in early July. The probe shows that Kareem, president of the Finance Ministry's audit board, was deliberately killed by an improvised explosive device attached to the underside of his car, the spokesman said. (Full story)
  • A delegation from NATO arrived in Baghdad on Monday to begin a five-day, fact-finding mission to determine how the security alliance can best fulfill its commitment to the Iraqi government, including possible technical assistance. The team is led by U.S. Adm. Gregory Johnson, commander of the Joint Force Command based in Naples, Italy, who will report to the NATO council.
  • CNN's Jane Arraf, Ingrid Formanek, Caroline Faraj, Guillaume Debre, Brent Sadler and Alphonso Van Marsh contributed to this report.


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