An American Marine missing from duty in Iraq since last month and who had earlier
been reported executed has mysteriously surfaced at the U.S. embassy in Lebanon.
In Iraq itself, at least five American soldiers have been killed in more insurgent
attacks just a day after the Baghdad government gave itself new powers to deal
with the on-going unrest.
The fate of Lebanese-American Marine Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun had been
a mystery, until Thursday. He disappeared from his base in Iraq last month
and was initially reported to have been beheaded after Islamic websites posted
a photo of him with a knife above his head and being held by militants. But
just days later, the Marine was reported alive and in a safe location even
having contacted family members.
With his disappearance now the target of a criminal investigation, U.S. State
Department Spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters the corporal is now at
the American embassy in Beirut.
"He made contact with us and arranged for a place to meet and we went to
pick him up and brought him back to the embassy," said Mr. Boucher.
Whether he's been detained for questioning or just being cared for is not
known. Nor is how he made it from Iraq to Lebanon and whether he deserted his
unit or was abducted as initially claimed. In Tripoli, Lebanon, several people
were reported killed Thursday after violent clashes broke out between groups
for and against the Lebanese-American's decision to join the American military
and fight in Iraq.
There, the U.S. military says five American soldiers and several Iraqi guardsmen
were killed when they came under heavy mortar fire at an Iraqi National Guard
post in the Sunni stronghold of Sumarra. This, shortly after a U.S. military
convoy was targeted by a roadside bomb.
As men in Samarra chant support for Saddam Hussein, reports say American
soldiers returned fire from the ground and air, while moving through the streets
to flush out rebels, whose attacks have not ended with last month's handing
of political power back to Iraqis. Samarra residents speak of fierce battles
with American led troops who have moved in with tanks, helicopters and Humvees
to subdue what has been a hotbed of unrest.
And, in what could be another setback to Iraq's reconstruction, the Philippine
government has decided to bar contract workers from taking jobs in Iraq following
the reported capture of a Filipino contractor threatened with death unless
the Manila government withdraws its 50 troops from the country.
Thousands of Philippine contractors already hold reconstruction-related civilian
jobs in Iraq. More than 100 additional Filipino workers got the word from their
government Thursday that they would not be going to the country.