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Group denies claims on web site { July 4 2004 }

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Group Denies Killing U.S. Marine Hostage
Islamic Extremist Group Posts Statement on Web Site Denying It Killed U.S. Marine Taken Hostage

The Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq July 4, 2004 An Islamic extremist group denied in a statement posted on its Web site Sunday that it had killed a U.S. Marine taken hostage last month.

The denial by the Ansar al-Sunna Army left the fate of Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun unclear. The group said it had no connection to a statement in its name put out on other Web sites claiming Hassoun's slaying leaving open the possibility that the Marine was killed by another group or that he was still alive.

A Lebanese foreign ministry official in Beirut said Hassoun, a U.S. Marine of Lebanese heritage, was believed to be dead.

Lebanon's chief of mission in Baghdad "is trying to confirm the killing 100 percent, but it seems to be over," the official told The Associated Press. "We understand that he was slaughtered. God help him."

The U.S. military in Baghdad said it was checking into the report of the 24-year-old Hassoun's death but had no confirmation. On Sunday the military said Hassoun's status remains "captured."

The Ansar al-Sunna Army issued Sunday's statement in response to reports by the Lebanese Foreign Ministry that the group killed Hassoun.

"The media have published, quoting the Lebanese foreign ministry, that the Ansar al-Sunna Army has killed the American hostage, from Lebanese origin, who was kidnapped in Iraq," the statement said.

"In order to maintain our credibility in all issues we declare that this statement that was attributed to us has no basis of truth," the statement said.

"We have an official Web site for publication, any statement that is not issued through our site, doesn't represent us," it said.

The statement did not say whether Ansar al-Sunna Army is the group that snatched the 24-year-old Hassoun.

The claim that Hassoun was beheaded, posted on other Web sites Saturday, was issued in the name of "the Ansar al-Sunna Army in Qaim," a town near the Iraqi border with Syria that has seen frequent clashes with militants.

It was signed by Abdullah al-Hassan bin Mahmoud, a previously unknown figure labeled as "the prince" of the group.

The original claim of having kidnapped Hassoun in a video aired last week on Al-Jazeera television, showing the blindfolded Marine with a sword brandished over his head was issued in the name of "Islamic Response," the security wing of the "National Islamic Resistance - 1920 Revolution Brigades," rather than the Ansar al-Sunna Army.

Group denies claims on web site { July 4 2004 }
Group denies marine was beheaded
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Hassoun [jpg]
Iraq group says marine was moved to safety
Iraq group threatens to behead lebanese american marine { June 28 2004 }
Marine who disappeared in iraq leaves for US
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Missing marine mystery deepens { July 7 2004 }
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