- The Washington Times - Monday, July 5, 2004

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — An Iraqi Islamist group said it had moved abducted U.S. Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun to “a place of safety” after he pledged not to return to the American armed forces, Al Jazeera television network said yesterday.

The U.S. military, meanwhile, carried out an air strike on a safe house in the turbulent city of Fallujah based on information from the new Iraqi government. Officials and witnesses said at least 10 persons were killed.

Dubai-based Al Jazeera said the announcement regarding Cpl. Hassoun came in a statement from the Islamic Response Movement, the same group the network said on June 27 had claimed to have abducted the Marine and was threatening to kill him.

Cpl. Hassoun’s relatives in Lebanon said the same statement had been faxed to them.

The Islamic Response Movement did not say where Lebanese-born Cpl. Hassoun had been taken, only that he had been moved to a “place of safety,” Al Jazeera said.

“First we were told he had been slaughtered, then this was denied, and now all we can do is wait,” Cpl. Hassoun’s brother, Sami, said at the family home in Tripoli, north Lebanon.

Reports of Cpl. Hassoun’s fate were conflicted during the weekend after statements posted on Islamist Web sites and attributed to another Islamist group — the Army of Ansar al-Sunna — initially said he had been beheaded, then that he was alive.

Eight days ago, Al Jazeera showed a brief video of a blindfolded man in camouflage clothing sitting in a chair with a sword being held above his head. A Marine Corps identity card identified him as Cpl. Hassoun.

Al Jazeera quoted the Islamic Response Movement as saying that it had kidnapped a U.S. Marine after luring him from his base. The U.S. military, which says Cpl. Hassoun has been absent from his unit since June 21, had no comment.

The attack in Fallujah marked the fifth air strike in the past two weeks in an area where, the U.S. military says, Jordanian militant Abu Musab Zarqawi’s network has safe houses.

Rescue workers picked up body parts after the air strike, witnesses said. Video showed bricks flung blocks away and blood splashed on a nearby wall.

Dr. Diaa Jumaili of Fallujah Hospital said 10 bodies had arrived there, most of them dismembered. Previous U.S. air strikes in Fallujah have killed dozens.

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi issued an unprecedented statement soon after the attack saying that his government had provided intelligence to the U.S. military for the strike.

The interim government has been trying to figure out how to deal with the insurgents, and the air strike was carried out just hours after the government had postponed an announcement of new security laws targeting the insurgents.

Mr. Allawi has promised tough measures against the insurgents, who have been creating chaos in the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime 14 months ago.

The announced cooperation with the air strike appeared to be a first step toward that.

Mr. Allawi said in the statement that Iraqi forces had provided the intelligence for the location of the Zarqawi safe house so that the strike could “terminate those terrorists, whose booby-trapped cars and explosive belts have harvested the souls of innocent Iraqis without discrimination, destroying Iraqi schools, hospitals and police stations.”

Mr. Allawi appealed to all Iraqis to report the activities of insurgents.

“The sovereign Iraqi people and our international partners are adamant that we will put an end to terrorism and chase those corrupt terrorists and will uproot them one by one,” he said.

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