A caution: beware misleading reports from Islamic State territory

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By Phil Lawler
For the 2nd time in a week, a Chaldean Catholic archbishop has debunked sensational reports about an atrocity allegedly committed by the Islamic State. This is an odd phenomenon, and one that bears watching.
Last week the Chaldean patriarchate dismissed rumors that a Catholic priest named Boulos Yakoub had been murdered in Mosul, Iraq. No such killing took place; in fact “there has never been a priest of that name in the Iraqi Church.” Now there are reports that the ancient church of the Immaculate Virgin, also in Mosul, has been demolished. Not so, the city’s archbishop assures us.

The Chaldean bishops are not trying to downplay the evil done by the Islamic State. On the contrary, they have been in forefront in warning the world about the danger, and chiding the West for its failure to protect the persecuted Christian minority. (Today’s CWN headlines also carry a Chaldean bishop’s call for military action against the Islamic State.) But even as they appeal for help, the bishops want to base their appeals on the truth—which is tragic enough, without any embellishment.

So why are these false reports reaching the West? Is it simply a matter of rumors that spread like wildfire through a terrorized population? Are reporters too content to pass along unconfirmed reports, since it is too dangerous to reach the site and ask the right questions? Or is there a deliberate propaganda campaign afoot, run by people who wish to make the situation in Iraq look even more desperate than it really is?

Unless or until we can answer those questions, all reports from the territory held by the Islamic State should be treated with caution.