updated 7/1/2007 6:01:26 AM ET 2007-07-01T10:01:26

Reports of 20 beheaded bodies found south of Baghdad earlier this week were untrue and may have been fabricated by insurgents aiming to incite violence and revenge killings, the U.S. military said Saturday.

On Thursday, many international and Iraqi media outlets — including The Associated Press —reported the discovery of the bodies, quoting unnamed Iraqi police. The decapitated bodies had allegedly turned up on the banks of the Tigris River near Salman Pak, 15 miles southeast of Baghdad.

Iraqi police officers frequently talk to the media only on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.

At the time, the Interior Ministry tried to send troops to the area to confirm the discovery, but the visit was called off because the area was too dangerous.

On Saturday, the U.S. military issued a statement saying it had investigated the reports of the bodies and ultimately found them to be false.

"Anti-Iraqi Forces are known for purposely providing false information to the media to incite violence and revenge killings, and they may well have been the source of this misinformation," the statement said.

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