Group denies marine was beheaded
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Posted on Mon, Jul. 05, 2004
Group denies Marine was beheaded
The Ansar al-Sunna Army, on what it called its official Web site, said the announcement Saturday of the killing was false.
By Alistair Lyon
BAGHDAD - An Islamic group in Iraq denied yesterday that it had beheaded U.S. Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, seen in earlier televised pictures being threatened with a sword by captors.
While Washington sought to verify what had happened to Hassoun, guerrillas attacked a strategic pipeline linking Iraq's northern and southern oil fields.
Fears for Lebanese-born Hassoun, 24, had risen after a statement appeared on two Internet sites Saturday saying the Ansar al-Sunna Army had decapitated him. But yesterday, the group issued a statement on its own Web site saying the earlier declaration was false.
"This statement that claimed to be from us has no basis in truth," Ansar al-Sunna said on what it called its official Web site.
There was no way to verify which, if either, of the statements attributed to Ansar al-Sunna was authentic. The U.S. military, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry and Hassoun's family said they had no evidence he was dead.
"The denial gave us a big relief," Hassoun's brother, Sami, told the Associated Press by telephone from Tripoli, Lebanon, where some of Hassoun's relatives live.
In West Jordan, Utah - where Wassef Hassoun lived with his eldest brother, Mohammed, after moving to the United States in the early 1990s - relatives were in seclusion since the posting of the death report Saturday.
Hassoun's kidnapping was first claimed by a group calling itself Islamic Response, the security wing of the National Islamic Resistance - 1920 Revolution Brigades, a name making reference to the Iraqi revolution of 1920 against British rule.
On June 27, the Arab television channel Al-Jazeera broadcast a videotape showing Hassoun blindfolded, along with a statement from abductors threatening to kill him unless the United States released all Iraqis in "occupation jails." A man held a curved sword above his neck.
Meanwhile, smoke rose into the air from the pipeline sabotaged yesterday near Musayyib, about 50 miles southwest of Baghdad. Attacks on the oil industry - Iraq's main source of revenue - could hinder the new Iraqi interim government's attempt to boost the economy and improve poor living conditions that feed insurgency and political unrest.
Industry insiders say crude was being secretly pumped through the pipeline from northern Kirkuk fields for export through two offshore southern terminals.
Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said his interim government's first week in office since Washington handed over sovereignty had been successful, particularly in putting Saddam Hussein before an Iraqi judge.
"We have witnessed a drop in insurgency activities so far. We hope this drop will continue," Allawi said on ABC's This Week.
"I am sure that we will win," said Allawi, whose government shares Washington's view that Hussein supporters and foreign Islamic fighters are behind guerrilla attacks.
He is expected soon to outline his government's plans to stamp out guerrilla attacks. He reportedly is considering offering amnesty to insurgents as part of the plans.
But Allawi said militias, including those loyal to firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who led a rebellion against the U.S.-led occupation, must lay down their weapons.
"There is no room for any militias to operate in Iraq," Allawi said.
Sadr issued a statement yesterday pledging to resist "oppression and occupation" and calling the new interim government "illegitimate."
Previously, Sadr had made conciliatory statements to the new government. But his statement yesterday said: "We announce that the current government is illegitimate and illegal. It's generally following the occupation. We demand complete sovereignty and independence by holding honest elections."
It was unclear what prompted his apparent reversal, though Sadr has made contradictory statements in the past.
In the ABC interview, Allawi also rejected troop offers from Jordan's King Abdullah II, saying that "we are not asking" for additional soldiers.
The Iraqis are not eager to bring in Arab troops - especially from neighboring countries - fearing it could complicate relations with Syria and Iran.
This article contains information from the Associated Press.