U.S. Marine Who Faked his Capture by Militants in Iraq is Back in U.S. Custody After 10 Years

Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun makes a statement to the press outside Quantico Marine Base in Quantico, Va., Monday July 19, 2004. (STEVE HELBER / AP FILE)
Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun makes a statement to the press outside Quantico Marine Base in Quantico, Va., Monday July 19, 2004. (STEVE HELBER / AP FILE)

A Lebanese-born U.S. Marine who allegedly deserted his post in Iraq and then faked a video showing his capture by militants is in U.S. custody after being on the lam for about 10 years, the Marine Corps said Sunday.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service worked with Cpl. Wassef Hassoun “to turn himself in and return to the United States to face charges under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice,” the Marine Corps said in a statement.

Hassoun, now, 34, allegedly walked off his base in Fallujah, Iraq, sometime before June 20, 2004, taking with him his service-issued 9mm pistol. Hassoun was a motor transport Marine by training but was serving as an Arabic translator.

He had been listed as a deserter after disappearing from the base. About a week after he left the post, a video surfaced showing him blindfolded with a masked man holding a sword over him. The military changed his status at that time to captured.

In a bizarre twist several weeks later, on July 8, he turned himself in to the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon.

From there he was flown back to the United States where he faced desertion, theft and other charges at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

He was granted leave to visit his family while awaiting judicial proceedings. He never returned to base and was again listed as a deserter in January 2005.

The case invites comparisons with that of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a soldier who allegedly walked off his post in Afghanistan five years ago and was captured by the Taliban. Bergdahl’s freedom on May 31 was traded for the release of five Taliban militants being held at Guantanamo Bay.

SOURCE: Jim Michaels
USA TODAY

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