As promised: Iraqi spokesman says AP police source is phony; Update: NYT blog picks up the story; Update: AP responds, ducks the issue

Centcom said he’d mention it at today’s MOI presser, and so he did:

[W]e have some of the respected news outlets that deal with news fast and have a relation with many TV channels and the media in general, who distributed a story quoting a person called Jamil Hussein. Afterward, we searched our sources in our staff for anyone by this name– maybe he wore an MOI uniform and gave a different name to the reporter for money. And the second name used is Lt. Maythem…

[Y]ou should contact MOI PAO for all your needs to get real, true news. Based on that, we strongly deny any relation with those two names. In order to serve you better and strengthen the relationship with MOI, do not take statements that have no meaning and do not represent any official…

[W]e ask our people, please do not take any news or give it credibility, except from a well-known source with a name and an address that is part of the security ministries, etc., such as a minister or police station commander. Or if it is from the MOD or MOI, the name of the officer, his rank, his unit, etc. It is not enough to say “a source from the ministry of interior.”

Doing otherwise, you will end up helping the spread of the rumors and make them reality, even thought it was a false rumor. This rumor business — if a large issue, it will take a long time to cover it, but the purpose of the rumors is to disrupt life and make the security apparatus busy with other things than its main tasks. We will end up following rumors instead of hunting terrorists and criminals.

An AP reporter was there but there’s nothing on the wire yet. I’ll update when there is. Keep your eye on USA Today’s “On Deadline” blog, which has been following this for the past three days.

The spokesman didn’t mention the “burned alive” incident specifically so we’ve probably heard the last of it on both sides.

Update: The story hasn’t hit the Times proper yet but it has reached one of its blogs. Author Tom Zeller notes that the Times itself covered the “burned alive” incident this way:

In the evening, a resident named Imad al-Hashemi said in a telephone interview on Al Jazeera, the Arab news network, that gunmen had doused some people with gasoline and set them on fire. Other residents contacted by telephone denied this.

Emphasis mine. I hadn’t heard that before.

He’s also suspicious about how/why an e-mail sent by Centcom to the AP made it so quickly onto conservative blogs. Er, because Centcom shared it with Flopping Aces after he inquired about Jamil Hussein? Surely America’s one-stop shopping center for leaks isn’t tut-tutting at us over this, is it?

Update: Patterico thinks Jamil Hussein might well indeed be a cop, just not an official Iraqi cop.

Update: Rusty notes that there’s potentially even bigger news in the press release: the capture of someone named Ali Nazar al-Jubori, who may or may not Iraq’s infamous Juba the Sniper. Yeah, that’s a great moral victory, but killing Zarqawi was a great moral victory too and six months later we are where we are.

One less jihadi to worry about, though.

Update: See-Dubya makes an excellent point about the “burned alive” story. If, as one eyewitness told the AP, all the victims were members of the al-Mashadani tribe, then even if it happened the way they said it happened, this may be less a case of sectarian violence than bad ol’ family feud.

Update: Dan Riehl notes an article from last year claiming that the al-Mashadani family from Hurriya, where the burning took place, left for Syria. The victims ID’d in the AP article were members of the al-Mashadani “tribe,” though, and in any case there are a lot of al-Mashadanis in Iraq. It might not be the same family, either.

Update: Here’s the AP response to today’s press conference in an e-mail to Flopping Aces. It’s unsatisfying in two respects:

[T]he U.S. military and Iraqi government spokesmen attack our reporting because that captain’s name is not on their list of authorized spokespeople. Their implication that we may have given money to the captain is false. The AP does not pay for information. Period.

Further, the Iraqi spokesman said today that reporting on the such atrocities “shows that the security situation is worse than it really is.” He is speaking from a capital city where dozens of bodies are discovered every day showing signs of terrible torture. Where people are gunned down in their cars, dragged from their homes or blown apart in public places every single day.

Point one: the Iraqis aren’t claiming that Jamil Hussein isn’t an authorized police spokesman, they’re claiming that he isn’t a policeman. Big difference, no? If a reporter at a crime scene interviews a cop and then refers to him in the article as an “official police spokesman,” it’s an error but it doesn’t call into question the reliability of the information. If he interviews a bystander and refers to him as a cop, it does. They’re ducking the issue here.

And point two: that second paragraph is nothing more than “fake but accurate” with the “fake” part as yet unsettled.

Update: “On Deadline” finally has a post up about the day’s events. It’s uneventful except for this tidbit from the Iraqi spokesman’s press conference, which pretty well confirms what we knew before:

Gen. al-Kenani said … [t]hat the story of the burnings “is another rumor; we dispatched our forces to the area where the rumor claimed the burning took place and found nothing. We also sent a team to al-Dab Aladly (medical center) and I was in touch with this center. No one can confirm any burned, dead body was received. (The Ministry of Defense) also has no information about this incident, either.”