Bosnian Muslim forces found the two men, who have not yet been named pending notification of next-of-kin, in the small town of Turbe, west of Travnik, on Friday.
'It appears they were taken from their flat in Turbe during the night, tied up, tortured and then shot in the head,' said Major Martin Waters, the spokesman at the Army headquarters in Vitez.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman added: 'Our people in Vitez have seen the bodies. They were bound. We cannot speculate on who did it, and why.' Local sources said the deaths were 'awfully nasty'.
Both men claimed to have served with the Army in the past and one held the rank of captain. But an Army source said that the men's names did not tie up with the regiments in which they were alleged to have served.
Last night confusion surrounded the real role that the two men, aged 37 and 43, had played in Bosnia. They were known to the British UN forces based at nearby Vitez, who were called to identify them, but they had no official connection with the British presence.
Some British military sources, citing British UN soldiers who knew them in Bosnia, said the two were advising Muslim forces on 'military- medical matters'. However, according to one report, one had been filmed training the Muslims in unarmed combat, including the way to garrotte enemies - although that may have been a show of bravado for cameras. 'It is impossible to say yet whether they were angels of mercy or dogs of war,' said one British official.
Archie Hamilton, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, who was visiting Bosnia at the weekend, sought to persuade journalists to write about the fate of the two men as a way of deterring other Britons from joining mercenaries there, British diplomats said.
One of the men said last year that he was paid no money, only food and board. He said he had informal contacts with British soldiers of the Cheshire Regiment, and criticised British mercenaries who became involved in the fighting for the sake of adventure.
Few records exist of the British, Germans, French and Arab volunteers involved in the fighting against the Serbs in the former Yugoslavia, last year in Croatia and now in Bosnia.
The Foreign Office was last night seeking to track down next-of-kin, but the process was slowed because the men's passports containing dates of birth had to be retrieved from the police station at Zenica, a large town near Turbe.
At the moment Turbe, a Muslim town, lies in a Muslim-controlled area. Some local militia sources claimed the murderers were mujahedin mercenaries who arrived recently in the front-line area around Travnik. The local Muslim command was said to be angry and upset over the killings, which took place on their territory where they said the men should have been safe. However, the area is lawless.
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content