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WASHINGTON — The Associated Press is standing by an Iraqi police source and his description of a Nov. 24 execution of six men outside a Sunni mosque despite a U.S. military statement that neither is real.

Last week, the AP released a story that a gang of armed Shiites attacked the Mustafa Sunni mosque in Baghdad, dragged six worshippers outside, doused them with kerosene and set them on fire.

At the time, the main source in the report was police Capt. Jamil Hussein, a man frequently quoted in AP reports and by others about violence in the area.

Last weekend, the Multi-National Corps–Iraq Joint Operations Center released a statement 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,” and asked for a retraction of the story.

Lt. Michael Dean, spokesman for MNC-I, also added that U.S. officials have no record of Hussein as a Baghdad police officer or an Iraq Ministry of Interior employee.

AP officials responded earlier this week with a second report supporting their description of the attack, this time referencing three anonymous witnesses in addition to the previous sources.

AP’s use of Hussein in stories has become a major issue for military and conservative bloggers, who claim it brings into question all of the wire service’s reports from Iraq.

At one the first sites to post the MNC-I statement, www.floppingaces.net, moderators have raised questions about 10 other AP stories where Hussein was quoted, and whether the issue points to carelessness or bias on behalf of the news organization.

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