A militant Iraqi group denied it had killed US Marine hostage Wassef Hassoun, contradicting earlier reports that he had been beheaded.
“The denial gave us a big relief,” Hassoun’s brother, Sami, said.
Sami Hassoun acknowledged that the family was still worried about his brother’s fate, with conflicting reports and no hard evidence, and was still reeling from reports of his beheading.
“We are hoping that good news will come later tonight that Wassef is alive, God willing,” he said. He renewed his appeal to the kidnappers to release his brother.
A web site posting on Saturday said militants of Ansar al-Sunna Army had beheaded the 24-year-old Lebanese-born captive, and the Lebanese Foreign Ministry announced yesterday that it had independent information from Baghdad that he had been killed.
But after strongly condemning the death, Foreign Minister Jean Obeid later said news of the death “was not official”.
Obeid said the Lebanese charge d’affaires in Baghdad was “in contact with some forces that have indirect links to the (kidnappers), and these forces say they lost hope in all attempts and by last night the group was about to behead him or had already beheaded him".
In an online statement, the group denied it had killed Hassoun.
“In order to maintain our credibility in all issues we declare that this statement that was attributed to us has no basis of truth,” the statement said.
Corporal Hassoun, fluent in Arabic, French and English, was serving the Marines as a translator in his second stint in Iraq when he was captured.