Accused deserter a no-show after leave
Pentagon: He may have fled to Lebanon
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A U.S. Marine corporal already charged with desertion in his disappearance from Iraq last year has failed to return from leave and may have fled to Lebanon, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.
Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun was required to report back to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, by noon Tuesday, and was declared a deserter Wednesday afternoon after failing to do so, according to a statement from the Marine Corps.
His commanders have authorized civil authorities to apprehend him, according to a statement from Camp Lejeune.
Investigators have found evidence that Hassoun has fled the United States for Lebanon, where he turned up in July after his disappearance from an American base in western Iraq, Pentagon officials told CNN.
Hassoun's family told military officials that he had left Utah, where he was on leave, four days before he was to return to Camp Lejeune.
But Hassoun is now believed to have taken money out of the bank and changed his flight destination from North Carolina to Canada, where he booked a flight to Lebanon, where he was born and has relatives, Marine Corps officials said.
Once reported executed
In December, the Marines charged Hassoun, who served as a truck driver and Arabic translator, with desertion and theft. He has denied deserting and was not held in confinement after being charged.
Marine officials said Wednesday that he was not believed to be a flight risk because he had turned himself in after initially disappearing from Iraq. In addition, the Marines had let him go on leave to Utah two times before he was charged, and he had shown no sign that he would try to flee.
His latest disappearance is another twist in an already convoluted story, with many details still unclear.
In June, Hassoun disappeared from a Marine camp outside the Iraqi city of Falluja. Originally listed as a deserter, his status was changed to "captured" after the release of a videotape showing him blindfolded, with a sword above his head.
Islamist Web sites reported that he had been executed by an Iraqi militant group, but Hassoun turned up with relatives in Lebanon in July and was returned to the United States.
Military investigators charged him with desertion and theft of government property -- a military vehicle and his service weapons -- after U.S. troops found his civilian passport, military ID card and uniform during the siege of Falluja in November.
If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison for desertion and up to 10 years for each theft.
CNN's Jamie McIntyre and Mike Mount contributed to this report.