KIRKUK, Iraq – The commander of a brigade that U.S. Central Command said captured 74 suspected Al Qaeda sympathizers said Monday that he had no knowledge of any such arrests.
"This is the first I've heard of this," said Col. William Mayville (search), commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
According to a Central Command (search) statement, the "the 173rd Brigade conducted a raid Thursday near Kirkuk after receiving intelligence information about alleged anti-coalition elements. They apprehended 74 suspected Al Qaeda sympathizers."
The Washington Post reported Monday that 74 people were detained at a home being used as a mosque for two hours on Thursday. The Post quoted Army Capt. Trish Cawdrey (search), head of military intelligence in Kirkuk, as saying "they weren't Al Qaeda sympathizers."
Mayville told The Associated Press that arrests of suspected insurgents are routinely made in Kirkuk but usually only a few at a time.
U.S. forces in northern Iraq are hunting members of the Al Qaeda linked guerrilla group Ansar al-Islam (search), which before the war had been operating near the Iranian border.