Mystery Marine En Route To U.S.

U.S. Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, shown in this undated photo, was reported to have been slain Saturday, July 3, 2004, by an Iraqi militant group that had taken him hostage.
A U.S. Marine who disappeared in Iraq and turned up in Lebanon three weeks later left Germany Thursday after six days of debriefing and evaluation in a U.S. military hospital, a Ramstein Air Base spokeswoman said.

Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun took off from Ramstein on a morning flight aboard an Air Force C-5 Galaxy heavy transport jet for Dover, Del., a day after he was originally scheduled to depart, base spokeswoman Petra Day said.

He will be brought to the Marine base at Quantico, Va., where the Pentagon's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency will handle the rest of his repatriation, according to the Marine Corps.

As he departed the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center on Wednesday, Hassoun said he was anxious to get home.

"I am in good health and spirits, I look forward to my return home to friends and family," he said in a written statement provided to The Associated Press, his first public comment since he vanished June 20 from his base near the troubled Iraqi city of Fallujah.

Hassoun was flown to Germany Friday after reappearing July 8 at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. It remains unclear how he made the journey to Lebanon from Iraq.

"All thanks and praises are due to God for my safety," he said. "I am also very thankful for all the kind wishes, support and praise for me and my family from my fellow Marines, all the people in the United States, Lebanon and around the world."

Hassoun signed the statement "Semper Fidelis," the Marine Corps motto meaning "always faithful."

During the three weeks he was missing, various conflicting reports emerged about Hassoun — first that he was kidnapped and beheaded, then that he was alive. There were suggestions it was all a hoax.

Hassoun's debriefing at Landstuhl was designed to help U.S. military specialists learn any lessons about the circumstances of his disappearance that could help others who find themselves in similar situations.

The U.S. Navy has said it is investigating whether the kidnapping might have been a hoax, but the Naval Criminal Investigation Service is not expected to question Hassoun until his repatriation procedure is completed, the Marine Corps said.