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Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Iraq Notebook
Marine free, family says


Missing U.S. Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun
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Four Marines killed in action; Iraq declares war on rebels
BEIRUT, Lebanon — The family of Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun said yesterday they had received word that the Lebanese-born U.S. Marine — who was kidnapped in Iraq and at one point was reported beheaded — was free and well.

A Lebanese government official also said Hassoun, 24, was released, though his whereabouts were unknown. The kidnappers freed the Marine after he pledged not to return to the U.S. military, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. military initially said Hassoun was absent without authorization since June 20. They later said he was "captured."

"We have received reliable information the guy is free," said Sami Hassoun, the Marine's brother, in the north Lebanese city of Tripoli. He said the family had received credible information from a person who came to their Tripoli home.

On Saturday, a militant group calling itself the Ansar al-Sunna Army claimed on a Web site that it had beheaded Hassoun, but promised video proof never surfaced, and in a statement posted on another Web site, the group said Sunday it did not issue the earlier statement.

Monday, a group calling itself "Islamic Response" told Al-Jazeera television that Hassoun was safe.

U.S. secretly removed radioactive material

WASHINGTON — In a secret operation, the United States last month removed from Iraq nearly two tons of uranium and hundreds of highly radioactive items that could have been used in a so-called dirty bomb, the Energy Department disclosed yesterday.

The nuclear material was secured from Iraq's former nuclear-research facility and airlifted out of the country to an undisclosed Energy Department laboratory for further analysis.

9-11 panel disputes Cheney Iraq claims
 
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WASHINGTON — The Sept. 11 commission, which reported no evidence of collaborative links between Iraq and al-Qaida, said yesterday that Vice President Dick Cheney had no more information than commission investigators to support his later assertions to the contrary.

The vice president has asserted long-standing links between the former Iraqi president and Osama Bin Laden's Islamist militant network. Assertions that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and could be prepared to provide chemical or biological agents to al-Qaida for attacks on the United States were a main justification for President Bush's decision to invade and occupy Iraq.

The commission called White House claims about links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida into question on June 11, with a staff report that found no evidence of a collaborative relationship.

Cheney criticized the commission's finding in an interview with CNBC and said there "probably" was information about Iraq's links to terrorists that the commission members did not learn during their 14-month investigation.

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