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Marine Returns to Utah

Marine Returns to Utah

Posted - Jul. 31, 2004 at 2:02 p.m.



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(KSL News/AP) A U.S. Marine facing questioning for his disappearance in Iraq has returned to Utah.

Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun left the Salt Lake airport around 5 pm Saturday to go to his family's home in West Jordan.

He's said to be taking a 30 day leave from the Camp Lejeune military base in North Carolina.

The Marine insists he was kidnapped from his base in Fallujah in June.

Military investigators say Hassoun will return to Camp Lejeune at the end of August, to finish the repatriation process.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has been looking into Hassoun's disappearance from his base near Fallujah, Iraq, but military officials have said Hassoun wasn't expected to be questioned until his repatriation is complete.

"Right now, I know of no plans they have to talk to him while he is on leave," said Lapan, a member of Hassoun's repatriation team.

Hassoun, who lost 20 pounds during his disappearance but was otherwise uninjured, is scheduled to return to Camp Lejeune by the end of August, Lapan said.

Hassoun, 24, disappeared from his base near the troubled Iraqi city of Fallujah and later turned up at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. It remains unclear how he traveled from Iraq to Lebanon, where he was born and still has relatives.

He arrived at Camp Lejeune July 20 was greeted by Marines from his unit, the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-Terrorism), according to a statement released by base officials.

Hassoun has been under a cloud of suspicion since failing to report for duty June 20. Videotaped images later surfaced showing him apparently kidnapped; he emerged unharmed in Lebanon on July 8. He has denied he was ever a deserter, insisting that "Once a Marine, always a Marine."

Marine officials said it may be weeks or months before Hassoun returns to active duty.

Hassoun will be joined in Utah by his parents and new bride, who are making arrangements to leave Tripoli, Lebanon -- the Hassoun family's traditional home -- sometime next week.

While in Utah, Hassoun hopes to relax, eat out and catch up with relatives, a family member said.

Relatives worry, however, that Hassoun's presence will signal a return of the media horde that camped outside the family home for weeks after his disappearance. The family has contacted police for protection.

For the last 11 days at Camp Lejeune, Hassoun, his eldest brother Mohamad, and a Muslim chaplain on loan from the U.S. Navy prayed five times a day, watched action movies and made several trips off base for dinner. Marine spokesmen said the Lebanese-born Marine appeared more comfortable each day.

Despite the NCIS investigation, Hassoun has not hired an attorney, the family member said.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story)

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