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WEST JORDAN, Utah (AP) -- The family of Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun began an anguished wait as images surfaced from across the world showing him being held by Iraqi captors and threatened with decapitation.
Hassoun's relatives in Utah issued a brief statement late Sunday confirming that the Marine, a Muslim of Middle Eastern origin, was the same soldier shown blindfolded with a sword held over his head.
"In the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate, we accept destiny with its good and its bad," Hassoun family friend and spokesman Tarek Nosseir said outside the family's home. "We pray and we plead for his safe release and we ask all people of the world to join us in our prayers. May God bless us all."
Arab satellite television network Al-Jazeera broadcast the videotape from a militant group threatening to behead Hassoun if the U.S. military did not release all prisoners in Iraq.
The tape displayed a Marine identification card in the name of Wassef Ali Hassoun. The U.S. military said a corporal by that name had been missing from his unit in the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force since June 21.
Some of Hassoun's relatives, including his father, Ali Hassoun, and a brother, Sami, are in Tripoli, Lebanon. The relatives said contacts were under way with politicians and Muslim clerics in Lebanon and Islamist groups in Iraq to secure the Marine's release.
"We are trying to send word through all channels that he is Lebanese, Arab and a Muslim," Abdullah Hassoun, another member of the extended family and the head of Al-Safira municipality in Lebanon, told The Associated Press.
Judy Hassoun, Wassef's former sister-in-law, said by telephone from Bacliff, Texas, that Hassoun is serving his second stint in Iraq. She hadn't known he was missing and had not seen Wassef in about five years.
She said he was born in Tripoli, educated at American schools in Lebanon and is fluent in Arabic and French. "He is a great student," she said. He is "very peaceful, but very brave, very loving."
Judy Hassoun said Wassef, one of six children, studied hard and "always wanted to get good grades. He helped everybody. He helped his mother a lot." She said her former husband, Mohammad Hassoun, is the oldest of the six siblings and sent money to Lebanon to help with the younger children.
She said Wassef joined the Marines after moving to the Salt Lake City area. Hassoun's relatives, including her ex-husband, live in an upscale subdivision in West Jordan, a Salt Lake City suburb.
Utah residents extended their prayers and best wishes.
"We are very sorry for what happened," said Ali Mohammed, 46, while taking a break from tidying up after evening prayers at Al-Noor Mosque in Salt Lake City, where Hassoun worships when he is home.
West Jordan Mayor Bryan Holladay said the thoughts of all residents were with the Hassoun family. "He's one of our Marines," Holladay said. "We're proud of the work he's doing, but we're hoping he comes home safely."
Police Capt. Gary Cox briefly visited the home Monday.
"The family's doing OK," he said. "Again, their obvious concern is for their relative and their privacy. They're concerned about all this attention, which is really not wanted."
The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton in California's San Diego County, is a 25,000-man force. It includes about 19,000 Marines from Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Troops from Camp Lejeune, N.C. and Marine Forces Reserve in New Orleans, La., round out the force -- one of three division-sized Marine units.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)