You undoubtedly have seen the headlines about one of the horrific acts of violence reported recently from Iraq: last Friday evening, six innocent Sunnis were dragged from a mosque, doused with kerosene and burned alive by Shia militiamen. Here is how the Associated Press story began:
Revenge-seeking Shiite militiamen seized six Sunnis as they left Friday prayers, drenched them with kerosene and burned them alive, and Iraqi soldiers did nothing to stop the attack, police and witnesses said.
Police Capt. Jamil Hussein said Iraqi soldiers at a nearby army post failed to intervene in the burnings of Sunnis by suspected members of the Shiite Mahdi Army militia, or in subsequent attacks that torched four Sunni mosques and killed at least 19 other Sunnis, including women and children, in the same northwest Baghdad area.
The story was reported world-wide. The only official source for the account, however, was “Police Capt. Jammil Hussein.” CENTCOM initially said that it had not been able to confirm the account of the burned-alive Sunnis. Upon further investigation, it appears that the incident probably never occurred at all. In addition, “Police Capt. Jamil Hussein” appears to be non-existent. Earlier this afternoon, CENTCOM put out the following press release (via Flopping Aces, who has done a tremendous job on this story, and NewsBusters):
Dear Associated Press:
On Nov. 24, 2006, your organization published an article by Qais Al-Bashir about six Sunnis being burned alive in the presence of Iraqi Police officers. This news item, which is below, received an enormous amount of coverage internationally.
We at Multi-National Corps – Iraq made it known through MNC-I Press Release Number 20061125-09 and our conversations with your reporters that neither we nor Baghdad Police had any reports of such an incident after investigating it and could find no one to corroborate the story. A couple of hours ago, we learned something else very important. We can tell you definitively that the primary source of this story, police Capt. Jamil Hussein, is not a Baghdad police officer or an MOI employee. We verified this fact with the MOI through the Coalition Police Assistance Training Team.
Also, we definitely know, as we told you several weeks ago through the MNC-I Media Relations cell, that another AP-popular IP spokesman, Lt. Maithem Abdul Razzaq, supposedly of the city