WEST JORDAN, Utah – Amid new evidence he may be alive, relatives of abducted U.S. Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun (search) said they hoped he has been released following conflicting reports of his fate.
In a statement sent to Al-Jazeera television, the group calling itself "Islamic Response," said Monday that Hassoun was safe at an undisclosed location. The statement also claimed that Hassoun had promised not to return to the American military.
"At this point we are uncertain about the destiny of our brother, our son, our friend, Wassef," Tarek Nosseir (search), a family spokesman, said Monday.
"We pray that the news of his safe release is true. If he is still in captivity, we remind the captors of the saying of our beloved prophet: Be merciful to those on Earth, mercy will descend upon you from heaven," Nosseir said in front of the family's home in West Jordan.
Nosseir would not say why the family thought Hassoun may have been released.
The statement Monday was issued in the name of the same group that claimed initial responsibility on the June 27 video for the kidnapping. The group calls itself "Islamic Response," the security wing of the "National Islamic Resistance -- 1920 Revolution Brigades." The name refers to the uprising against the British after World War I (search).
Hassoun's family has been in seclusion since Saturday, when a militant group calling itself the Ansar al-Sunna Army claimed on a Web site that it had beheaded the 24-year-old Marine, adding it would release video backing up that assertion.
But the group said Sunday it did not issue the statement, leaving it unclear if the Hassoun was killed by another group or was still alive. A posting on another Internet site said Hassoun was alive.
The National News Agency in Lebanon reported the death Sunday, citing the Foreign Ministry, which was informed by Lebanon's charge d'affairs in Baghdad. The agency did not say how Hassoun's death had been confirmed.
The U.S. military in Baghdad said it was checking into the claim but had no confirmation.
Hassoun, educated at American schools in his native Lebanon before moving to the Salt Lake City area, was serving his second stint in Iraq as a translator fluent in Arabic, French and English, when he disappeared June 20.
Hassoun's father, Ali Hassoun, who lives in Tripoli, Lebanon, repeatedly pleaded for his son's release. He and his other sons have contacted politicians and Muslim clerics in Lebanon and Islamist groups in Iraq in hopes of securing the Marine's release.
Other militant groups have captured and threatened to behead other foreign Muslim hostages, creating an uproar among many Muslims, including other militants. All the captured Muslims aside from Hassoun have been released unharmed.