Seven paras accused of murdering Iraqi

Seven British paratroopers are to go on trial accused of murdering an Iraqi teenager, the Attorney General said yesterday.

In what is the largest and possibly most damaging case to come to light, the members of the elite army unit are accused of killing 18-year-old Nadhem Abdullah in a roadside incident in 2003.

Coming at a time when the Army is reeling from photographs and allegations of sexual humiliation and abuse emanating from a court martial in Germany, the case will cause further embarrassment. It will also renew fears of revenge attacks such as the car bomb that seriously injured five soldiers last month following the release of the abuse pictures. In Basra yesterday, 12 troops escaped unhurt after a car bomb attack in the city centre. A civilian worker suffered minor injuries.

The allegations against the paratroops led to renewed calls for a full inquiry into claims of abuse by British soldiers. Already five cases of varying severity are under way with nine more in the pipeline. A further 52 cases are under investigation.

The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, said the Army Prosecuting Authority had directed that the soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment would face a court martial for joint charges of murder as well as violent disorder. The accusations relate to the death of Mr Abdullah following a roadside incident in Uzayr, south of Amarah, on 11 May 2003.

He died just nine days after George Bush, announced that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended" and the charges are likely to raise questions about the transition from fighting to peacekeeping.

Lord Goldsmith named three of the accused men as Corporal Scott Evans, Private William Nerney and Daniel Harding, a former private who has since left the Army. The other four men, two of whom are said to have also left the Colchester-based regiment, will be named when they have been informed of the charges against them. In a written statement to the House of Lords, Lord Goldsmith said that no date had yet been set for the trial or for a preliminary hearing.

Investigations into the case have been continuing since last summer. The British Army has twice asked to exhume the body but Mr Abdullah's family have refused permission.

Last week a soldier pleaded guilty in a case involving the wounding of a 13-year-old boy in the same southern Iraqi town. Private Alexander Johnston, of the 1st Battalion, the King's Own Scottish Borderers, admitted negligent discharge of his weapon, was fined £750 and ordered to pay the victim £2,000.

The Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price, who has raised the issue in Parliament, said last night that the latest case proved once again the need for a general inquiry into possible abuses during military activities in Iraq.

"They can't keep saying it is just of few wrong 'uns, a few bad apples. This suggests at the very least there is a general problem which has to be investigated," the MP said.

"The Americans have had five separate official investigations as well as two congressional inquiries. Apart from the courts martial, there has not been a single attempt to have a general inquiry by the Government.

"We now have multiple allegations of mistreatment involving UK forces. I don't think it is enough to punish those deemed to be possibly directly involved. We need a fully independent inquiry into all these allegations so that we can minimise the risk of this abuse happening in future. We need to investigate systematic failures in the chain of command."

The Ministry of Defence refused to comment last night on any aspect of the case involving the seven paratroopers.

But, a military expert, Colonel Mike Dewar, said: "I think we have to keep [the allegations] in the context of how few these cases are.

"Sixty-five thousand troops have been in Iraq in the last 15 months or so, and we're talking about a number of cases on two or three hands."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable