So will an inquiry find that these images were staged?

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The Independent Online

Photographs of an Iraqi prisoner being allegedly abused by British soldiers of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment will be examined by the Royal Military Police to decide whether or not they are authentic. But details have already been analysed in the media by a variety of military "experts", with the general conclusion that the pictures, printed in the Daily Mirror, were staged. But how accurate were they? Here is the evidence so far.

Photographs of an Iraqi prisoner being allegedly abused by British soldiers of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment will be examined by the Royal Military Police to decide whether or not they are authentic. But details have already been analysed in the media by a variety of military "experts", with the general conclusion that the pictures, printed in the Daily Mirror, were staged. But how accurate were they? Here is the evidence so far.

Quality of the photographs

Probably the strongest case for questioning the claim that the photos are genuine. They are of great clarity, yet oddly static. The prisoner is making no attempt to protect himself by curling up in a foetal position while a rifle butt is being allegedly pounded into his genitals. The photos are also shot on black-and-white film, not normally used by the public.

The type of rifle used

Much has been made of the alleged use of an A1 SA-80 rifle, rather than the A2 which was used in the Iraq campaign. The rifles in the picture also lack the normal carrying sling. However, military sources said yesterday that the only difference between the A1 and A2 are in the appearance of the cocking mechanism and the positioning of the magazine, and these differences could not be easily discerned from the published photos. Not all soldiers would necessarily use shoulder slings.

Hats worn by the soldiers

The soldiers are wearing floppy camouflaged hats. Some experts in the media have said that they should have been wearing helmets. British soldiers in Iraq, unlike their US counterparts, often wore "soft" hats on patrol - which included both berets and floppy hats.

The truck

Some of the experts have said that the inside of the truck appeared to be that of a Bedford, not deployed in Iraq, where Leyland Dafs are used. This points to the photographs being fake. But military sources also said they found it difficult to tell the make of the truck from what was published.

Soldiers' webbing

The webbing used for storing ammunition had been left open, which could lead to ammunition falling out if the soldier had to jump from the truck. There appears to be no obvious explanation why this was the case, and points to the photographs being staged.

The 'victim's' clothing

Much has been made of the fact that the teenage boy, a Shia, was wearing a T-shirt with an Iraqi flag. This, it is claimed, would be anathema in the Shia Basra region. But what he appears to be wearing is an Iraqi football shirt, in no way uncommon in the area. The shirt, however, looks clean despite the severe beating he is supposed to have received. One of the soldiers who reportedly supplied the photographs claimed belatedly in yesterday's Daily Mirror that the youth was wearing clothing on top of the shirt which had been torn off.

The soldiers' bootlaces

The soldiers have their boots cross-laced. In the British Army, it is claimed, soldiers always lace their boots straight. But officers acknowledged yesterday that this is not the case, and the preference as to lacing rests with individuals.

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