Army faces new inquiry on Iraq torture deaths

An announcement this week of a new public inquiry into fresh allegations of torture against British troops will heap further pressure on the British Army and the Government regarding abuse in Iraq.

The Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, will tell the Commons on Wednesday that the new inquiry will focus on the Battle of Danny Boy, which took place in May 2004 and involved soldiers from the Argyll and Southern Highlanders and the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment.

Families claim that some of 20 insurgents killed at Majar al-Kabir were abused before they died, making it more difficult for ministers to continue to insist torture was not routinely carried out by British soldiers during the six-year conflict.

The Armed Forces minister, Bill Rammell, has already said there is no evidence to support the claims, insisting if they were true it would have been "a massive conspiracy involving huge numbers of people".

An investigation by the Royal Military Police concluded that the torture claims were groundless.

An inquiry into the death of a hotel worker, Baha Mousa, who died after being beaten at a detention centre in Basra in 2003, is already under way. The MoD agreed last year to pay his family £3m compensation.

There are also demands for another public inquiry into fresh allegations of the abuse of 33 detainees at a British military base. Mr Rammell has so far resisted calls for this, insisting an internal investigation from within the MoD is sufficient.

Daniel Carey, of Public Interest Lawyers, which is representing the families of the alleged Danny Boy victims, said: "It does ministers no credit to continue to protest the Army's innocence when it is clear that its own investigation was at best incompetent and at worst wilfully defective."