A U.S. Marine charged twice with deserting the armed forces turned himself in, according to an announcement from officials Sunday. The man, Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, 34, turned himself in and was being flown to Norfolk, Virginia, from an undisclosed location in the Middle East.
According to Yahoo! News, Hassoun will be moved Monday to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The Marine was declared a deserter almost 10 years ago when he disappeared in Iraq and returned to the U.S. claiming he was kidnapped. During the investigation, Hassoun disappeared again.
Hassoun enlisted in the Marine Corps in January 2002 and was trained as a motor vehicle operator. He was serving as an Arabic translator at the time of his disappearance from a Marine camp in Fallujah in 2004. That year was particularly difficult for the Marines in Iraq, as they launched an offensive in April to retake Fallujah from Islamic extremists. They were ordered to pull back, only to launch a second attack in November that succeeded at the expense of dozens of Marine lives.
Hassoun disappeared from his unit in Iraq’s western desert in June 2004. He turned up unharmed in Beirut, Lebanon, the next month and blamed his disappearance on Islamist extremist kidnappers. He was returned to Lejeune and was expected to appear at the military equivalent of a grand jury.
However, the U.S. Marine disappeared again during a visit with relatives in West Jordan, Utah, in December 2004. It isn’t clear why he chose to turn himself in now.
Reuters notes that, during his disappearance the U.S. Marine was seen in a videotape, allegedly being held by militants. He was blindfolded with a sword over his head. An Islamic militant website later claimed he had been beheaded. However, he showed up unharmed at the U.S. Embassy the next month and Hassoun denied deserting and told reporters he had been captured.
According to media reports, Hassoun fled the United States before military proceedings began and went to Lebanon, where he was born. After his second disappearance, the Marine was officially classified as a deserter by his commanders, authorizing civilian police to arrest him.
The commanders also placed Hassoun on a Navy list of “most wanted” fugitives. A mug shot of the Marine appeared on a Navy criminal justice website. Family members say they last saw him on December 29, 2004. Once he arrives at Camp Lejeune, the military will decide whether they will court martial the U.S. Marine.