msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 6/13/2011 7:27:45 AM ET 2011-06-13T11:27:45

A new entry in a blog purportedly by a lesbian Syrian-American living in Damascus asserted Sunday that the four-month saga was a hoax.

The post entitled "Apology to readers" on the "A Gay Girl in Damascus" blog was signed by "Tom MacMaster" in Istanbul, Turkey. The Washington Post identified him as a 40-year-old American man from Georgia. The newspaper described him as a Middle East peace activist working toward a master's degree at Scotland's University of Edinburgh.

In the post, the author says the narrative was fictional but insists "the facts on thıs blog are true and not misleading as to the situation on the ground."

"I do not believe that I have harmed anyone," the post continued, "I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about."

The post said its author never expected so much attention. MacMaster included the attribution, "The sole author of all posts on this blog" in the signature.

Last Tuesday, a blog post at the same site and supposedly written by the woman's cousin said 35-year-old Amina Arraf had been detained in Damascus after weeks on the run.

The post, purportedly by a Rania Ismail, said Arraf was last seen the previous day being bundled into a car by three men in civilian clothes as she was on her way to meet someone at the activist Local Coordination Committees. Ismail said a friend accompanying her was nearby and saw what happened.

News organizations, including msnbc.com , covered the apparent disappearance.

A reporter for The Associated Press, who maintained a monthlong email correspondence with someone claiming to be Arraf, found the writer seemed very much like a woman in the midst of the violent change gripping Syria. The writer spoke about friends in Damascus, and outlined worries about her father and hopes for the future of her country.

In the emails, the person acknowledged fudging some details of escaping from Syrian security officials to protect herself and her family, and painted a harrowing picture of fleeing her home.

The story unraveled quickly and there were no traces of the woman or her family in the United States.

Skepticism over her disappearance and identity grew after a woman in London claimed that photos purported to be of Arraf were actually of her. Jelena Lecic, a Croatian and an administrator at the Royal College of Physicians in London, said she believed her identity had been used before by the blog author.

The Washington Post reported that in telephone interviews and email exchanges over the past three days, MacMaster initially denied any connection to the Arraf blog.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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