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July 7, 2004
The Hassoun Hoax?

MS-NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports tonight that the Pentagon is now investigating what exactly happened to Cpl. Wassef Hassoun, a Marine supposedly kidnapped by Islamofascist terrorists. Now, however, military sources say Hassoun may have hoaxed the world:

Late Wednesday, FBI agents showed up at the Hassoun family home in West Jordan, Utah. And Pentagon officials tell NBC News that the Navy has now launched a criminal investigation into Hassoun's disappearance, and the possibility that his kidnapping may be part of an elaborate hoax.

Hassoun disappeared from his Marine unit on June 20. He showed up a week later in a hostage-style video, with a sword held over his head and his alleged captors threatening to kill him. Terrorist experts say, however, the group said to have held Hassoun is unknown.

"We don't know whether this group is simply an Internet address. ... We don't know if they were simply fabricated. We have no idea what's going on here," says terrorism expert Steve Emerson.

A second group later claimed Hassoun was beheaded then retracted that claim. Pending the investigation, military officials refuse to say Hassoun's kidnapping was a hoax, but they point out he had reportedly talked openly about leaving his Marine unit to join his family in Lebanon. Whether he was kidnapped and then released along the way remains a mystery.

This opens all sorts of possible explanations of Hassoun's motivations and connections. Assuming that he constructed this hoax, it could have not been done without outside help to get the video onto the Internet -- after all, it's not like Iraq has wall-to-wall broadband available. When he first disappeared, people spoke about friendships he made with local Iraqis; it was presumed that Islamofascists used his naivete to grab him while he thought he was safe. It could have been a reverse fake instead, with his friends providing the convenient and plausible support for a fake Islamofascist kidnapping while he got out of Iraq. Or -- and this could be a very big problem -- Hassoun hasn't left Iraq at all but is collaborating with the people who claim to have kidnapped him, a scenario that could endanger all the Marines in his unit.

It will be interesting to see this develop over the next few days. (via Drudge)

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 7, 2004 9:16 PM

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