The Iraqi government has denied a claim by an Iraqi journalist who said 11 members of his family had been slain by Shi'ite gunmen.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said he spoke to the mother of journalist Dhia al-Kawaz and she categorically denied that the family had been killed.

The mother was reported telling Iraqi state television that she disowned her son for the false claim. Dhia al-Kawaz, who is in Jordan, said gunmen on Sunday attacked the home of his family in Baghdad, killing 11 of his relatives.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Iraqi refugees are returning to Iraq from Syria, encouraged by reports of lessening violence in their home country.

Spokesman al-Dabbagh told a news conference that a convoy with 800 Iraqis left Damascus Tuesday heading for Baghdad. He said 60,000 Iraqis have recently returned and more are expected.

In other news, the U.S. military says coalition forces detained 12 suspects since Tuesday in operations targeting al-Qaida networks in central and northern Iraq.

Separately, the military says Iraqi forces, advised by U.S. Special Forces, captured three known al-Qaida in Iraq terrorists Tuesday in western Baghdad.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.