Marine Corp. Wassef Ali Hassoun of West Jordan, Utah, who disappeared in June from a military camp near Fallujah, Iraq, and later turned up with relatives in Lebanon claiming...
WASHINGTON Marine Corp. Wassef Ali Hassoun of West Jordan, Utah, who disappeared in June from a military camp near Fallujah, Iraq, and later turned up with relatives in Lebanon claiming he had been kidnapped and held hostage was charged yesterday with desertion.
Hassoun, working as an Arabic interpreter, vanished June 19. Fellow Marines in Iraq said he was upset after witnessing the death of a comrade hit at close range by a large round.
Eight days later, a video broadcast by the Arabic network Al Jazeera showed Hassoun blindfolded, with a sword behind his head. A group identifying itself as Islamic Response claimed to be holding him and threatened to decapitate him unless detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq were released.
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On July 3, Web sites that previously had announced the slayings of other hostages reported that Hassoun had been beheaded by the Ansar al Sunna Army; those claims were quickly denied by the radical group on its own Web site.
Five days later, Hassoun by then apparently in Tripoli, Lebanon, where his relatives live contacted U.S. Embassy officials in Beirut and arranged a meeting. During fighting last month in Fallujah, U.S. troops recovered Hassoun’s personal belongings in a box in a commercial building.
Powell criticizes 6 allies holding out on staffing
BRUSSELS, Belgium Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday accused France, Germany and four other European allies of “hurting the credibility and cohesion” of NATO by refusing to allow their soldiers to go to Iraq to help train the new Iraqi army.
The 26 NATO foreign ministers, meeting as the North Atlantic Council, the pact’s top political body, agreed to increase the number of instructors and support staff to train the new Iraqi army from 60 to some 300.
But France and Germany have been joined by Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg and Spain in prohibiting their soldiers assigned to NATO’s military staff to participate in the mission in Iraq.
Speaking at a news conference, Powell said it was unprecedented for NATO members who vote to authorize a mission to then prohibit their NATO-assigned soldiers from supporting that operation. The six nations approved the training mission earlier this year.
“When it comes time to perform a mission, it seems to us to be quite awkward for suddenly members in that international staff to say, ‘I’m unable to go because of this national caveat or national exception,’ ” Powell said. “You are hurting the credibility and the cohesion of such an international staff or organization.”
$10 billion in contracts awarded to Halliburton
WASHINGTON Halliburton, the Texas company once run by Vice President Dick Cheney, has been given more than $10 billion worth of business in Iraq so far despite critical audits and investigations into its work.
According to figures released by the U.S. Army yesterday, Halliburton unit Kellogg Brown and Root, the U.S. military’s biggest contractor in Iraq, has work orders totaling $8.3 billion under a logistics contract to support U.S. troops.
Separately, KBR was given about $2.5 billion in work via a no-bid, March 2003 deal with the Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild Iraq’s oil industry, the corps said.
A competitively bid contract that followed from the no-bid deal has the potential to earn another $1.2 billion for KBR.
“Halliburton is delivering for the military at a time when few other companies could or would. We will continue to do our very best to assist the troops in Iraq, especially in the difficult times when they miss family the most,” said Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall.
At least 55 Halliburton employees and subcontractors have been killed in Iraq and Kuwait while working for U.S. forces.
Several government investigations have been launched into KBR’s Iraq business, and Pentagon auditors are also looking into whether the company overcharged for some services, such as serving food to troops and delivering fuel to Iraqi civilians.
Last month, the FBI interviewed an Army Corps of Engineers whistle-blower, Bunny Greenhouse, who raised concerns that contracts were improperly awarded to Halliburton in Iraq.
The Army is also considering whether to implement a 15 percent withholding on future Iraq invoices from KBR, a punitive measure recommended by auditors because of a billing dispute.
The United Nations
panel overseeing compensation for victims of Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait has approved awards worth $2.9 billion for environmental damage, the world body said yesterday. The awards by the U.N. Compensation Commission included $2.27 billion to Kuwait for damage caused by Iraqi troops, who used trenches and lakes filled with crude oil to defend their positions. Another $625 million went to the government of neighboring Saudi Arabia for damage caused to its desert environment by military installations set up by the international coalition that forced Iraq’s army out of Kuwait. Iran’s government also received a small amount.
U.S. forces released
114 Iraqis who had been detained in the country’s two major military prisons yesterday, a military spokesman said. The Iraqis were freed from the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad and Camp Bucca detention facility near Umm Qasr, southern Iraq, as part of a routine release program, Capt. Jeff Magruder said.