LONDON: British army officials yesterday dismissed “baseless rumours” that troops mutilated the bodies of dead Iraqi insurgents after a 2004 battle, as a public inquiry heard its first evidence from military witnesses.
The Al Sweady Inquiry is investigating claims that British troops committed human rights abuses in the aftermath of a notorious firefight near the town of Majar Al Kabir, southwest Iraq, that came to be known as the “Battle of Danny Boy” after a nearby checkpoint.
Troops are accused of unlawfully killing 20 or more Iraqis at Camp Abu Naji near Majar Al Kabir in May 2004, and ill-treating detainees there as well as later at Shaibah Logistics Base, also in southwest Iraq.
But at a hearing in London yesterday, Colonel Adam Griffiths said he had not seen any evidence to suggest that around a dozen bodies taken to Camp Abu Naji were mutilated before being returned to relatives, or that detainees had been mistreated.
“I did not believe any of our soldiers had mutilated a body and I did not see at the time, and have not seen since, any evidence to support this proposition,” he told the inquiry.
He suggested that the rumours sprang from “ignorance amongst the local population as to the traumatic injuries that can be suffered in combat” as well as insurgents’ efforts to discredit the US-led troops that had invaded Iraq in 2003.
Some of the bodies had broken limbs as well as gunshot wounds, Griffiths said, but he believed those injuries could have been caused by ammunition.
The colonel admitted that an order to take the bodies back to the camp was “highly unusual”.
He insisted the order must have been given for good reason — possibly to help identify a suspect in the murder of six British military policemen the year before.