Marine Debriefing Taking Longer Than Expected

Marine Debriefing Taking Longer Than Expected

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BERLIN (AP) -- A Marine who disappeared from his post in Iraq and turned up later in Lebanon will still return to the United States this week, even though his debriefing is taking longer than expected, an official said Tuesday.

Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun is talking with intelligence specialists, psychologists, physicians and a Muslim chaplain at the U.S. military's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

The "survival, evasion, resistance, and escape" debriefing is the same process gone through at Landstuhl by others who were taken prisoner in Iraq, such as Pfc. Jessica Lynch and civilian truck driver Tom Hamill.

"It is just a routine thing, we did the same thing with Hamill and with Lynch," said hospital spokeswoman Marie Shaw. "Some of them just take a bit longer than others."

Hassoun, a native of Lebanon, vanished June 20 from his base near the troubled Iraqi city of Fallujah and reappeared July 8 at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.

It is not clear how Hassoun made the journey, and during the three weeks he was missing, various conflicting reports emerged about him -- first that he was beheaded by militant captors, then that he was alive.

The Navy has said it is investigating whether the entire kidnapping might have been a hoax, but the Naval Criminal Investigation Service is not expected to question Hassoun until after the debriefing process.

In the meantime, Shaw said Hassoun had a haircut and shave Monday and is in better spirits than when he was brought to the hospital Friday.

"He was smiling a whole lot more," she said.

Hassoun was uninjured, but doctors said he had lost about 20 pounds.

The Marine Corps had initially said Hassoun would return to his home unit in Camp Lejeune, N.C., when the debriefing process is complete, but officials now say it is premature to say where he will be taken.

He is still expected to leave Landstuhl by the end of the week, Shaw said.

Lynch, an Army supply clerk, was captured March 23, 2003, in Iraq and was later found by U.S. commandos in a hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, while Hamill, was taken hostage in Iraq this April 9 and managed to escape his captors on his own.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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