Iraqi militants 'behead US Marine'

An Iraqi militant group claimed last night that it had beheaded a captive US Marine of Lebanese descent in a stark challenge to the authority of the new interim government in Baghdad.

The group, Ansar al-Sunna Army, posted a statement on an Islamic website, saying it had killed Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun, who went missing on 21 June. "You will soon see the movie with your own eyes," the statement said.

A week ago the al-Jazeera network showed a videotape of the blindfolded 24-year-old Marine with a sword poised over his head. On the tape, militants threatened to kill him unless the US released all Iraqis in "occupation jails".

It was the second reported killing of a kidnapped American soldier in Iraq within a week. Hours after the US handed over sovereignty on Monday, al-Jazeera broadcast footage showing what militants said was the shooting of 20-year-old Private Keith Matthew Maupin. A gunman could be seen firing one shot at the soldier.

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