- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 4, 2004

BAGHDAD — A radical Islamic group claimed to have beheaded a captured U.S. Marine yesterday, while six Iraqi national guardsmen and a second Marine were killed on the deadliest day since Iraq received its new sovereignty.

An oil pipeline also ruptured in southern Iraq, cutting oil exports by half, but it was not clear if it was the result of sabotage.

In a statement posted on an Islamist Web site, extremist faction Ansar al-Sunna Army, which is suspected of links to al Qaeda, said it had decapitated Lebanese-born Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun in Iraq.

The group also said it was holding another “infidel” hostage but did not provide details.

The U.S. military had no confirmation of the killing. One official said Cpl. Hassoun was still listed as “captured.”

If confirmed, it would be the fourth decapitation of a foreign hostage in the region since May.

“We would like to inform you that the Marine of Lebanese origin, Hassoun, has been slaughtered. You are going to see the video with your very eyes soon,” the statement said.

Cpl. Hassoun, 24, went missing June 21 near the flash-point town of Fallujah, west of Baghdad.

The Arab television channel Al Jazeera broadcast a videotape from a militant group on June 27 showing a blindfolded hostage believed to be Cpl. Hassoun, along with a statement that the Marine would be decapitated unless all detainees in U.S.-administered military prisons were freed.

In that statement, the kidnappers identified themselves as “Islamic Response,” the security wing of the “National Islamic Resistance — 1920 Revolution Brigades,” referring to the uprising against the British after World War I, the Associated Press reported.

Yesterday’s claim of Cpl. Hassoun’s death was issued on the same Islamic extremist Web site where footage was posted last month showing the beheading of U.S. civilian engineer Paul M. Johnson Jr. in Saudi Arabia. The site also often carries claims of attacks by Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant said to be operating in Iraq.

Zarqawi’s movement claimed responsibility for the beheading of Kim Sun-il, a South Korean who worked for a company delivering supplies to American forces, and Nicholas Berg, an American businessman whose body was found in Baghdad in May.

Another militant group in Iraq claimed last week that it had killed Spc. Keith M. Maupin, an American soldier who had been held captive since April. The military has not yet confirmed that Spc. Maupin was shown in grainy video footage of a man being shot in the back of the head.

In yesterday’s statement, the militants said they used a woman to trap Cpl. Hassoun. “As your soldier had a love affair with a young Arab woman, he has been lured from the base,” the statement said.

Earlier yesterday, a bomb attack on a checkpoint outside the town of Mahmudiyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad, killed six Iraqi national guard soldiers and wounded four, the local national guard chief and medical sources said.

A U.S. Marine died yesterday of wounds suffered Friday during operations in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, the military said. An Iraqi policeman was also killed in an attack on a traffic control point in the main northern city of Mosul on Friday, the military said.

Meanwhile, the Army announced it has detained 51 persons after raiding a suspected bomb factory in southern Baghdad where four vehicles were being prepared for use as car bombs.

More than 400 people died in a spate of car bombings, suicide attacks and raids last month in the run-up to the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis on June 28 — two days ahead of schedule, apparently to pre-empt insurgents’ plan for attacks.

It was not immediately clear if the southern pipeline that ruptured had been sabotaged or had sprung a leak. It was at the site of one of two sabotage attacks last month that effectively halted Iraqi exports for almost a week.

An official at the terminal in Basra said exports had fallen to 40,000 barrels per hour from 84,000 barrels per hour.

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