Mon, Jul 05, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Car bombing foiled amid conflicting reports on Marine

CLAIMS AND DENIALS Lebanese diplomats said they are trying to confirm reports of the US Marine's death, while an Iraqi group denied killing him


Iraqi troops foiled an attempted car bombing yesterday outside their headquarters in a city northeast of Baghdad after security forces opened fire on a man who threatened to blow up his vehicle, according to local officials.

Meanwhile, a Lebanese foreign ministry official said that Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun, a 24-year old US Marine of Lebanese heritage, was believed to have been killed by insurgents in Iraq.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity yesterday, said the ministry received a call from Lebanon's chief of mission in Baghdad saying Hassoun had been killed.

"He [the diplomat] is trying to confirm the killing 100 percent, but it seems to be over. He is now trying to learn where his body is. He believes it is in Fallujah," the official said. "We understand that he was slaughtered. God help him."

The killing was first claimed by an Iraqi militant group -- the Army of Ansar al-Sunna -- in an Islamic Web site positing on Saturday. The US military in Baghdad said it was checking into the report of Hassoun's death but had no confirmation.

However, the Army of Ansar al-Sunna issued a statement on its Web site yesterday denying reports that it had killed the Marine.

"This statement that claimed to be from us has no basis in truth ... and we have an official Web site through which we publish statements," the group said, referring to a statement issued on two Islamist Web sites on Saturday in the name of Ansar which said the militant group had beheaded the Marine.

The posting on Saturday claimed Hassoun had been killed after he was lured into a trap involving a love affair with an Arab woman. That statement said video would be released later. It also said the group had taken another hostage but did not give details.

Hassoun's brother Sami said from the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli that "we don't have any news."

Iraqi officials in the city of Baqubah said yesterday morning that a man driving a car rigged with explosives tried to attack the National Guard building there.

The attacker got out of the car and the Iraqi troops opened fire, killing the man and setting off the explosives in the car, according to police chief Waleed al-Azawi.

Hospital officials reported that two bystanders were killed in the explosion.

Another car bombing targeted a passing US convoy west of Baghdad around 8:30am causing no injuries, said Major Phil Smith of the 1st Cavalry Division.

In Baghdad, an explosion shook the home of an Education Ministry employee, in another attack targeting officials working with the interim government.

An Iraqi police official announced yesterday that US and Iraqi forces have detained six members of a militant group suspected of carrying out a string of assassinations in the north.

The men were reportedly members of Ansar al-Islam, a Kurdish group believed linked to al-Qaeda, said Colonel Sarhat Qader of the Iraqi police.

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