The U.S. Marine who turned up in Lebanon nearly three weeks after he mysteriously vanished in Iraq has been cooperating fully with the U.S. military, officials said Monday.
Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun was being questioned at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in the same manner as others who have escaped captivity in Iraq, said Army Lt. Col. Sally Harvey, a clinical neuropsychologist at the hospital.
“It’s exactly the same process that Jessica Lynch went through. ... It’s exactly the same process Tommy Hamill went through — there is nothing different, nothing unique, about how we are treating Cpl. Hassoun,” she said.
Pfc. Lynch, an Army supply clerk, was captured March 23, 2003, in Iraq, days after the U.S.-led invasion began, and was later found by U.S. commandos in a hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.
Hamill, a civilian truck driver, was taken hostage by insurgents in Iraq on April 9 and managed to escape his captors on his own. Both were treated at Landstuhl before returning to the United States.
Days of confusion
Confusion had surrounded the fate of the 24-year-old, Lebanese-born Hassoun since a dramatic videotape broadcast on Arab television June 27 showed him with his eyes covered by a white blindfold and a sword hanging over his head.
A statement on an Islamic militant Web site later claimed that Hassoun had been beheaded, but it was followed the next day by a statement on another Islamic Web site denying that he had been killed.
He then showed up July 8 at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, but it was unclear how he reached Lebanon and contacted American officials. The Navy has said it is investigating whether the entire kidnapping might have been a hoax.
‘He has fully engaged’
Harvey, who is overseeing the questioning, was not permitted to say what Hassoun might have told investigators about his disappearance June 20 from his base near the troubled Iraqi city of Fallujah.
But he was cooperating with the debriefing team of intelligence specialists, psychologists, physicians and a Muslim chaplain, Harvey said.
“He has fully engaged in the process,” Harvey said in a telephone interview from Landstuhl. “His spirits are good and he’s participated fully.”
The team was questioning Hassoun about “survival, evasion, resistance, and escape” and the results would be used to help others in Iraq, Marine Corps Europe spokesman Maj. Tim Keefe said.
May return to U.S. soon
“Some of those lessons can go immediately back to people that are there and in that way they may have something that can save someone else’s life,” Keefe said.
Hassoun is expected to be able to return to his home unit in Camp Lejeune, N.C., “in a couple days,” Keefe said.
On his arrival at Landstuhl on Friday, doctors said that Hassoun seemed to be in good health but had lost 20 pounds and was having trouble sleeping.
He is now sleeping better and has been talking on the telephone with his mother in Lebanon and his brother in Utah as well as other family members, hospital spokeswoman Marie Shaw said.
“He is in good spirits, he’s doing well,” she said. “Today he’s going to get a haircut and shave and look like a Marine again.”
She said that the debriefing team had been speaking with Hassoun regularly.
“Most of it’s just conversations, and it’s done in an atmosphere as comfortable as possible for him,” she said.