Missing Marine at U.S. Embassy in Lebanon
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, who disappeared from his unit in Iraq last month and was depicted on a videotape as having been captured by insurgents, arrived Thursday evening at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, the State Department said.
"He made contact with us and arranged a place to meet, and we went to pick him up [in Beirut] and brought him back to the embassy," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. Pentagon sources said it took three tries to arrange a meeting.
Hassoun, 24, who was born in Lebanon, arrived at the embassy at 6 p.m. with members of his family, three U.S. officials said. He apparently arrived at the home of family members in his native city of Tripoli on Wednesday, a source close to the family told CNN. (Full story)
Mohamad Hassoun, a brother who lives in the United States, said he talked briefly with Wassef by phone.
"He sounded OK," Mohamad Hassoun told reporters at a news conference outside his house in West Jordan, Utah. "I was told that he has lost some weight, but he is well."
Mohamad Hassoun said that family members thanked the Marine Corps for its help, as well as everyone across the country and around the world who prayed for them and expressed their support.
Earlier Thursday, two people died and another was wounded in a gunbattle that broke out near the Hassoun home in Tripoli amid accusations that members of the family were American agents.
Witnesses said a rival family provoked Hassoun's relatives by saying they were American agents. None of the casualties were related to the Marine, police said.
Mohamad Hassoun said he was very sorry for the loss of life in Tripoli. But, he said, violence was one of the reasons some members of the family left Lebanon for the United States.
Wassef Hassoun, who also now makes his home in Utah, was trained as a truck driver but worked as an Arabic translator with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. He was last seen June 19 and was reported missing when he failed to report for duty the next day.
Arabic-language television network Al-Jazeera aired a video June 27 showing Hassoun blindfolded with a sword suspended over his head. A narrator on the tape said the captive would be killed if the United States did not free jailed Iraqis. (Full story) On June 30, the Pentagon listed him as captured. (Full story)
At one point, reports on Islamic Web sites said Hassoun had been beheaded.
Pentagon officials indicated Hassoun has a number of questions to answer, including how he was able to escape from his captors -- or be released by them -- and how he got to Tripoli, some 500 miles away from his unit's base in Fallujah.
U.S. officials said the United States hoped to transport Hassoun to its military base in Ramstein, Germany, for a medical examination and debriefing.
"In these cases, the first thing we try to do is make sure he is safe and we do that by getting him to a military treatment facility," one senior official said.
"This guy is a Marine. He has a unit that he is assigned to. Generally, Marines come back into our custody, under military control. We want to bring him back to where he is supposed to be," the official said.
He declined to say whether Hassoun would be taken to Iraq.
Pentagon sources said military investigators were looking at several possible theories in Hassoun's disappearance -- ranging from a kidnapping by insurgents to a possible hoax.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service was put in charge of the investigation shortly after Hassoun was reported missing, the Pentagon sources said.
It was brought into the investigation as a matter of routine "due to the suspicious nature of his disappearance," but no criminal investigation was under way, a Navy official told CNN.
On Wednesday, a man claiming to be Hassoun called the U.S. Embassy in Beirut saying he was in Lebanon.
The call came a day after Sami Hassoun, a brother who lives in Tripoli, said that a "sign" had come to the family that Wassef Hassoun was alive and had been released. He said the family was sure about the information, but he wouldn't elaborate. (Full story)
On Monday, a group claiming to have kidnapped Hassoun said it had taken him to safety after he promised not to return to the U.S. military, Al-Jazeera reported. (Full story)
He "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," said the group -- which calls itself "Islamic Response," the security wing of the Islamic Resistance of Iraq -- in a statement faxed to Al-Jazeera and posted on the network's Web site.
The group said its members treated Hassoun well.
CNN's Barbara Starr, Miguel Marquez, Rusty Dornin, Elise Labott and Alphonso Van Marsh contributed to this report.