AP calls Centcom accusation "ludicrous," stands by its story

The boss has details. Yes, they claim, there is in fact a person named Jamil Hussein — Jamil Gholaiem Hussein, to be precise — and yes, he’s a bona fide Iraqi police officer based at the station in Yarmouk. And for Centcom to suggest otherwise smells like a hamhanded attempt to discredit a story that makes things in Iraq look worse than the military would prefer them to look.

They’ve also filed a new story about the incident replete with what they claim are independent corroborating accounts from eyewitnesses:

Two of the witnesses — a 45-year-old bookshop owner and a 48-year-old neighborhood grocery owner — gave nearly identical accounts of what happened. A third, a physician, said he saw the attack on the mosque from his home, saw it burning and heard people in the streets screaming that people had been set on fire. All three men are Sunni Muslims.

The two other witnesses said the mosque assault began in earnest about 2:30 p.m. after the arrival of the four vehicles filled with arms. They said the attackers fired into the mosque, then entered and set it on fire.

Then, the witnesses said, the attackers brought out six men, blindfolded and handcuffed, and lined them up on the street at the gate of the mosque. The witnesses said the six were doused with kerosene from a 1.3-gallon canister and set on fire at intervals, one after the other, with a torch made of rags. The fifth and sixth men in the line were set afire at the same time.

The witnesses said the burning victims rolled on the ground in agony until apparently dead, then the gunmen fired a single bullet into each of their heads…

One witness said he and other people from the neighborhood took the six immolation victims to the Sunni cemetery near Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib suburb and buried them after the gunbattle. That witness said one of the victims was the Mustafa mosque muezzin or prayer caller, Ahmed al-Mashadani. He did not know the names of the five others, but said they were all members of the al-Mashadani tribe.

It’d be easy to verify this if there was no Islamic taboo about disinterment. As it is, Centcom had better check the cop and figure out who he is and why he wasn’t on the rolls of Iraqi MOI pronto. If he’s a legitimate police officer and they have no record of him, it’d be hugely embarrassing. And not just because of what it means for this story.