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Army Reserve officer who went AWOL heading home, denies he's spy

JERUSALEM — A U.S. Army reserve officer with access to intelligence information boarded a flight back home Tuesday, two weeks after he alarmed the American military by going AWOL.

Lt. Col. Jeremiah Mattysse turned up Monday at a youth hostel in the desert town of Mitzpe Ramon. Mattysse has denied allegations by an Israeli woman who claimed to be his girlfriend that he disclosed sensitive documents.

"I'm not a spy," Mattysse told reporters after leaving a police station in central Israel late Monday. "There's been many things said about me which aren't true. I didn't give any classified information to anyone."

Israeli police said that Mattysse, who earlier this month requested to emigrate to Israel, was not at any time in detention and left the country voluntarily.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Larry Schwartz said Mattysse boarded a plane to the United States on Tuesday. "After speaking by phone with senior officers at his base in Texas, . . . Mattysse decided to return to the United States," Schwartz said.

Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, urged Mattysse to return home, saying he would be treated very fairly. "I think that would be the best way to put an end to an affair that really doesn't deserve this kind of publicity," Indyk told Israel army radio.

Until February, Mattysse commanded the Army Reserve Intelligence Support Center at Camp Bullis in San Antonio, Texas, as a full-time reserve officer.

The unit's primary mission was to train reservists in intelligence work. Mattysse failed to report to duty on Aug. 8 after a vacation, making him AWOL, or absent without leave.

Mattysse was reassigned to the 90th Reserve Support Group in San Antonio earlier this year after an investigation began into his wife's allegations that he had an extramarital affair.