Twenty beheaded bodies were discovered Thursday on the banks of the Tigris River southeast of Baghdad, two Iraqi police officers said.
The dead - all men aged 20 to 40 years old - had their hands and legs bound, and some of the heads were found next to the bodies, the officers said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
The bodies were found in the Sunni Muslim village of Um al-Abeed, near the city of Salman Pak, which lies 14 miles southeast of Baghdad.
Friday, news media reported a mass killing in a village near Salman Pak where 20 men were allegedly found beheaded. It now appears that the story was completely false and fabricated by unknown sources.
Upon learning of the press reports, coalition and Iraqi officials began investigating to determine if the reports were true. Ultimately it was concluded the reports were false.
Anti-Iraqi Forces are known for purposely providing false information to the media to incite violence and revenge killings, and they may well have been the source of this misinformation.
“Extremists promote falsehoods of mass killings, collateral damage and other violence specifically to turn Iraqis against other Iraqis,” said Rear Admiral Mark Fox, spokesperson for MNF-I. “Unfortunately, lies are much easier to state, the truth often takes time to prove,” said Fox.
Not all media reports can be immediately substantiated by Government of Iraq or Coalition Forces. They must go through a process to verify such claims, to include checking with various Iraqi Ministry’s, local police and security forces. Meanwhile, extremists have achieved their goal of spreading false information aimed at intimidating civilians and destabilizing Iraqi security.
Ultimately, media reporting based on verifiable sources will reduce the possibility of misinformation unnecessarily alarming citizens.
This week several newspapers and agencies reported that Iraqi police had found 20 beheaded corpses in Salman Pak, south of Baghdad.
AFP did not carry the report after its sources were unable to confirm the rumour.
But others? Not so good:
CBS: “Southeast Of The City, 20 Beheaded Bodies Were Found.” MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ, ANCHOR: “At least 20 people were killed today when a car bomb exploded at a Baghdad bus depot. Southeast of the city, 20 beheaded bodies were found.” (CBS’s “Early Show,” 6/28/07)
McClatchy: “20 Beheaded Bodies Were Found On The Banks Of The Tigris River Southeast Of The Capital.” “A car bomb parked at a crowded Baghdad bus terminal killed at least 25 Thursday morning, while 20 beheaded bodies were found on the banks of the Tigris River southeast of the capital…The beheaded remains were found in the Sunni Muslim village of Um al Abeed, near the city of Salman Pak, 14 miles southeast of Baghdad. American forces launched a drive into Salman Pak and neighboring Arab Jabour two weeks ago. Ground forces commander Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno had said U.S. troops were heading into those areas in large numbers for the first time in three years. Iraqi forces recently also have fought suspected insurgents there. It was unclear whether the discovery of the bodies was related to the recent fighting.” (Mike Drummond, “Car bombs kill 30 in Baghdad, ending lull,” McClatchy Newspapers, 6/28/07)
AP: “Twenty Beheaded Bodies Were Discovered Today On The Banks Of The Tigris River Southeast Of Baghdad .” “Twenty beheaded bodies were discovered today on the banks of the Tigris River southeast of Baghdad, while a parked car bomb killed another 20 people in one of the capital's busy outdoor bus stations, police said. The beheaded remains were found in the Sunni Muslim village of Um al-Abeed, near the city of Salman Pak, which lies 14 miles southeast of Baghdad. The bodies — all men aged 20 to 40 years old — had their hands and legs bound, and some of the heads were found next to the bodies, two officers said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.” (Sinan Salaheddin, “20 beheaded bodies discovered,” Associated Press, 6/28/07)
Reuters: “Iraqi Police Find 20 Beheaded Bodies Near Baghdad.” “Iraqi authorities found the bodies of 20 beheaded men dumped on the banks of the river Tigris in the town of Salman Pak, just south of Baghdad, on Thursday, police said. Locals spotted the bodies and informed the police who have yet to identify the victims.” (Iraqi police find 20 beheaded bodies near Baghdad, Reuters, 7/28/07)
NPR: “Iraqi Authorities Said Today They Found The Bodies Of 20 Men Beheaded And Left On The Banks Of The Tigris.” “Now right in the path of the American forces is a city called Salman Pak, from which there is grim news this morning. Iraqi authorities said today they found the bodies of 20 men beheaded and left on the banks of the Tigris.” (National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” 6/28/07)
Chicago Tribune: “BODIES FOUND.” “BODIES FOUND: Villagers in Um al-Abeed reported finding 20 beheaded bodies, according to two police officers from separate commands. The Sunni village is near the city of Salman Pak, 15 miles southeast of the capital. Residents said that the victims were all men ages 20 to 40 and that their hands and legs had been bound, the officers said on condition of anonymity. Another police officer in eastern Baghdad said officials had heard the report and tried to send a force to confirm it but the mission was called off because the area was too dangerous.” (Tribune News Services, “Iraq Digest,” Chicago Tribune, 6/29/07)
The New York Times: “The Police Reported Finding 20 Decapitated Bodies.” “And the police reported finding 20 decapitated bodies — a hallmark of Sunni extremists — south of the capital, although other officials later disputed the account….The discovery of 20 headless bodies was made in the Om-Obaid village near the Tigris River southeast of Baghdad, according to a police official in nearby Madaen. A half-dozen heads were also found near the still-clothed bodies, which appeared to be of men of varying ages, he said. An Interior Ministry official asserted later that it was doubtful that bodies had in fact been found.” (Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Stephen Farrell, “Sectarian Attacks Kill Dozens In Baghdad,” The New York Times, 6/29/07)
The Washington Post: “Residents Found 20 Decapitated Bodies On The Banks Of The Tigris River Early Thursday, News Agencies Reported.” “In Madain, about 15 miles south of the capital, residents found 20 decapitated bodies on the banks of the Tigris River early Thursday, news agencies reported. The Associated Press said the bodies — men ages 20 to 40 — had their hands and legs bound, and some of the heads were found near the corpses.” (John Ward Anderson, “Residents Say 17 Killed by U.S. Were Not Insurgents,” The Washington Post, 7/29/07)
What, this story wouldn't keep until it could be verified?
I'm sure we'll be treated to a Greenwaldian lecture about those listed being "stenographers" for the terrorists, or some such nonsense. Instead, what you see in front of you is plain old sloppy journalism, something which is becoming more and more common, and especially evident in reporting about this war.
And make no mistake about it, as we've watched from Palestine to Lebanon to Iraq, the terrorists know how to manipulate our press. Sometimes it is crude, sometimes it is sophisticated, but regardless it seems to work. You can't help but believe it works because the stories they fabricate are something these "journalists" want to believe. I mean, why else run with something you haven't verified?
And especially, you know, with those three levels of editors and all.
the terrorists know how to manipulate our press. Sometimes it is crude, sometimes it is sophisticated, but regardless it seems to work.
Any nod in the direction of sophistication would have to be for the terrorists’ own amusement and sense of style; it certainly isn’t required by most of our intrepid news media, who’d accept a Punch and Judy enactment as verification of "events" that might underscore their conviction of US impotence.
One more reason I trust Agence France Presse more than the sensationalist American media. One reason why I read the Financial Times rather than the New York Times (at least so far I haven’t seen it in the FT). American media sources are virtually all sensationalistic these days. Of course, many of them rely on reports out of Iraq that they cannot verify and assume that they are sent to them by other agencies after verification so I suppose one can forgive it if they later correct themselves. (I’ll delay judgment on the WP since you give the date for that report as July 29th. We’ll see what happens in a few weeks).
I saw incidents like this last year in Ramadi. While daily briefings are going on about a general lack of activity in town, the TV at the back of the room would be displying news feeds claiming all sorts of mayhem happening just outside the base. If the MSM would just come clean and emphasize that a lot of what they report is based on stringers that the reporters have hired are not necessarily vetted sources, it would be a a real service to the readers.
The reporters can complain about being stuck in the Green Zone for security reasons, but how do they explain guys like Mike Yon, Monte Morin (sp), Mike Fumento, and Bill Roggio?
Is it any wonder I take most news from Iraq with a grain of salt, if I read it at all?