British soldiers facing new allegations of brutality in Iraq

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An amateur video that appears to show British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners is being investigated by military police this weekend.

Video footage of soldiers apparently head-butting, punching and kicking prisoners in the genitals while held in a secure military compound is being studied by the Royal Military Police after the existence of the tape was exposed by the News of the World.

The film is understood to have been taken in early 2004, as the situation around the southern town of Basra began to deteriorate. British troops were involved in calming a number of street riots, and were attacked with stones, sticks and hand grenades.

During the footage, the cameraman - filming from a rooftop - can be clearly heard encouraging his colleagues to abuse four young prisoners, who appear to be teenagers. In all, the video records 42 clear blows on the Iraqis, with batons, boots and fists all used. The attacks appear to be led by a sergeant. Another sequence also appears to show an Iraqi corpse being held up and flaunted as a trophy.

Another newspaper quoted defence sources last night as saying they were "95 per cent sure" the pictures were genuine, but were wary after being embarrassed over fake pictures of alleged abuse in the past. The tape, which is three minutes and 12 seconds long, came to light after veterans of the campaign showed the footage to comrades on a base back in Europe. One of those colleagues reported its contents to the tabloid newspaper. The soldier's unit or regiment has not been disclosed.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said it took such allegations "extremely seriously". She said: "We are aware of these very serious allegations and can confirm they are now the subject of an urgent Royal Military Police investigation. We condemn all acts of abuse and brutality and always treat any allegations of wrongdoing extremely seriously."

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