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Marine who disappeared in Iraq in U.S. custody

Jun. 29, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Wassef Ali Hassoun
In this July 19, 2004, file photo, Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun prepares himself as he waits to make a statement to a large crowd of media outside the gates to USMC Base Quantico, Va. (Dylan Moore / AP)
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This June 27, 2004, file image from a video broadcast by the Al-Jazeera network, shows a man identified as U.S. Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun. (AP)

A Lebanese-born U.S. Marine who allegedly deserted his post in Iraq and then faked a video showing his capture by militants is in U.S. custody after being on the lam for about 10 years, the Marine Corps said Sunday.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service worked with Cpl. Wassef Hassoun "to turn himself in and return to the United States to face charges under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice," the Marine Corps said in a statement.

A Defense official said he was flown to the United States from a Middle East country, where he negotiated his return. The official asked not to be named since he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly. Hassoun has family in Lebanon.

Hassoun, now, 34, allegedly walked off his base in Fallujah, Iraq, sometime before June 20, 2004, taking with him his service-issued 9mm pistol. Hassoun was a motor transport Marine by training but was serving as an Arabic translator.

He had been listed as a deserter after disappearing from the base. About a week after he left the post, a video surfaced showing him blindfolded with a masked man holding a sword over him. The military changed his status at that time to captured.

In a bizarre twist several weeks later, on July 8, he turned himself in to the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon.

From there he was flown back to the United States where he faced desertion, theft and other charges at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Investigators believe he was never captured, according to the official.

He was granted leave to visit his family while awaiting judicial proceedings. He never returned to base and was again listed as a deserter in January 2005.

The case invites comparisons with that of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a soldier who allegedly walked off his post in Afghanistan five years ago and was captured by the Taliban. Bergdahl was freed May 31 in a deal in which five Taliban militants being held at Guantanamo Bay were released.

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