Friday, April 22, 2005

Disinformation Found In Tigris River

As regular readers of this space are no doubt aware, a large number of hostages may have been taken -- and killed -- in the Iraqi town of al-Madain. On the other hand, the entire story may be a giant hoax. As previously reported (first here and then here), the town was besieged late last week after unconfirmed reports of a mass hostage-taking. But when soldiers finally entered the town, they found no hostages.

Then reports started coming in about bodies being pulled from the Tigris. Were these the bodies of the 'hostages'? Iraqi president Jalal Talabani said they were, and that their presence proved the earlier reports to have been accurate. He was even quoted as having said:
[W]e have the full names of those who were killed and those criminals who committed these crimes.
Was Talabani telling the truth? Maybe not, said some, including one lowly and nearly frozen blogger, who couldn't quite understand how bodies pulled from the Tigris as early as February could belong to people who were allegedly taken hostage in mid-April.

Now it seems that local officials in al-Madain have been asking the same questions as the nearly frozen one. The following quotes are taken from a piece in Aljazeera entitled Iraq: Tigris corpses still a mystery.
Medical sources in the town of al-Madain have cast doubts that 60 bloated bodies recovered from a river in Iraq are those of civilians thought to have been taken hostage last week.

On Thursday morning, Iraqi medical sources said the tally of bodies recovered from the Tigris River had risen to 60.

Earlier, President Jalal Talabani said the discovery proved that armed Sunni fighters had seized up to 100 Shia last week in the town of al-Madain, 20km southeast of Baghdad.

But local officials said the bodies have been floating to the surface for weeks, and there is no way to tell where they came from.
And that's the crux of the issue, isn't it? If the local officials say "there is no way to tell where they came from", how can the president know "the full names of those who were killed and those criminals who committed these crimes"?
Dr Falah al-Permani, head of the Suwayrah health department, said families had identified just a few of the bodies, and it was impossible to tell where most were from.

"The extent of decomposition suggests all the slayings happened more than three weeks ago, while the crisis in al-Madain started less than one week ago," al-Permani said.

"So there is no way to link the two incidents."
One need hardly ask how this story will affect the credibility of president Talabani. Apparently, this marionette is no more credible than the people pulling his strings. And, really, how surprising is that?