WEST JORDAN, Utah (AP) – The Marine once feared beheaded by terrorists in Iraq has gone on leave and reportedly was headed to his brother’s home in Utah.

Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun has been at Camp Lejeune, N.C., since July 20 undergoing what the military calls a “repatriation process.” The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has been looking into Hassoun’s disappearance from his base near Fallujah, Iraq.

“Cpl. Hassoun has gone on leave,” 1st Lt. Clark D. Carpenter, a Camp Lejeune spokesman, said Saturday. “That’s a standard part of the repatriation process.”

Carpenter would not give details, but The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Hassoun had started a 30-day convalescent leave and was headed to West Jordan, the home of his eldest brother Mohamad.

No one at Mohamad Hassoun’s home would say when Wassef Hassoun was expected to arrive.

Hassoun, 24, has been under a cloud of suspicion since failing to report for duty June 20. Videotape surfaced showing him apparently kidnapped, blindfolded with a sword hanging over his head.

He later turned up at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. It remains unclear how he traveled from Iraq to Lebanon, where he was born and still has relatives.

He has denied that he was a deserter.

Hassoun will be joined in Utah by his parents and new bride, who are making arrangements to leave Tripoli, Lebanon – the Hassoun family’s traditional home – sometime next week.

While in West Jordan, near Salt Lake City, Hassoun hopes to relax, eat out and catch up with relatives, said a man at Mohamad Hassoun’s home who identified himself as a family member but would not give his name.

Relatives worry, however, that Hassoun’s presence will signal a return of the media horde that camped outside the family home for weeks after his disappearance. The family has contacted police for protection.

AP-ES-07-31-04 1845EDT

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