The brother of a Marine captured in Iraq denied reports Wednesday that he had been released and had contacted family members, but a U.S. official said there was reason to believe the corporal was in his native Lebanon.
"I hope we hear from him, but so far, nothing," Mohamad Hassoun said in an interview. CNN reported Wednesday that Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, 24, had been in touch with his family in Utah and Lebanon, telling them he had contacted the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and asked to be picked up at an undisclosed location in Lebanon.
When asked about the supposed call from Hassoun, his brother in Lebanon, Sami Hassoun, said, "We have nothing to say."
The U.S. Embassy in Beirut said it had no information. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, would not confirm the CNN report, saying only that there was reason to believe Hassoun was in Lebanon.
Two FBI agents met with the Hassoun family for about 20 minutes on Wednesday. The agents were not there to deliver any news to the family, but instead were sent to determine where the family was getting its information on Hassoun's whereabouts, Agent Kelly Kleinvachter said.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was asked at a news conference earlier Wednesday whether the missing Marine had been in contact with the embassy. "We have received reports he may be in contact with various individuals," Powell said. "There are other reports he may be in Lebanon. I can't confirm any of these."
Hassoun disappeared June 19 on what the Marines called "unauthorized leave," but his status was changed to "captured" after he appeared June 27 on television, blindfolded with a sword hanging over his head.
A militant group claiming to be the Ansar al-Sunna Army said on a Web site Saturday that it had beheaded the Marine. But the group said Sunday it did not issue the statement, and a posting on another Internet site said Hassoun was alive.
An Iraqi militant group said Monday it was holding Hassoun, a Muslim, in a safe place and had not killed him.
When Hassoun was shown on al-Jazeera television June 27, a group calling itself Islamic Response asserted responsibility for his kidnapping and threatened to kill him.