Video of eight soldiers beating Iraqi youths will be investigated, says Blair

The British Army is facing yet another deeply embarrassing abuse scandal after pictures emerged that appear to show soldiers beating Iraqi captives.

The violent images are of eight unidentified British soldiers kicking and hitting four young men with batons and then later mocking a dead Iraqi by kicking him in the face.

As the film rolls, the soldier behind the camera can be heard laughing and shouting obscene encouragement to his colleagues.

There were calls for a swift and thorough investigation yesterday as troops currently stationed in southern Iraq steeled themselves for a backlash.

The Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, Michael Moore, said the allegations - whether true or not - increased the urgency of setting a plan to pull troops out.

"Even the suggestion of abuse weakens our position in Iraq and makes the need for a coherent exit strategy all the more urgent.

"Parliament must be told if this is a one-off, as hoped, or evidence of wider abuses."

Tony Blair promised the allegations would be investigated "very fully indeed". Speaking from South Africa, he added that the "overwhelming majority" of British forces behaved properly and did a "great job for our country and for the wider world".

The Ministry of Defence said there was little doubt as to the authenticity of the tape. It said it was taking the matter very seriously and it was now the subject of an urgent Royal Military Police investigation.

Army investigators are due to begin questioning soldiers today. It is believed that the Special Investigation Branch is focusing on a group who have left the service as well as others currently at their base in Europe. Brigadier Martin Rutledge, Adjutant General's Chief of Staff, said: "They are disturbing images. We condemn all acts of abuse and brutality and always treat any allegations of wrongdoing by our personnel extremely seriously."

Initial reports suggested that the footage was taken in Basra, southern Iraq, in January 2004 at a time of heightened tension when 20 Armoured Brigade - which is due to return to Iraq this May - was on tour.

According to the News of the World, which printed the images, the video was taken by a corporal who added a laughing commentary to the brutal beating.

He can be heard saying: "Oh yes! Oh Yes! You're gonna get it. Yes, naughty little boys. You little fuckers, you little fuckers. Die. Ha Ha." As many as 42 blows rain down on the prisoners during a minute-long sequence of the film which the paper said was handed in by a "disgusted" informant after return to their home base. He is believed to have received considerable payment.

The video was filmed at a time when troops were involved in running battles with hundreds of rioters, armed with home-made grenades, stones and sticks. It shows a grenade landing inside the compound while the black fumes of a fire just outside the perimeter blow through.

Youths hurling abuse and stones turn tail as a group of soldiers pursue them, grab four apparent youngsters and drag them into the compound. They are then seen to mete out a vicious attack. One Iraqi is heard to plead for mercy as he is punched in the head and back before being hit with a baton. Another is seen to squirm in pain as he is beaten with a baton, a third struggles as he receives similar treatment. A fourth prisoner arches in agony as a soldier, said to be a sergeant, kicks him hard between the legs.

Later in the three-minute tape, separate incidents show a man being kicked in the chest as he kneels and a soldier drawing back a blanket from a corpse before it is mocked and kicked.

Col Tim Collins, who led the Royal Irish Regiment to war in Iraq before leaving the Army after being cleared of accusations of abuse, said: "Ultimately we just need to keep everybody calm for this one and we need an investigation more swiftly than the others. We cannot have another bungled Royal Military Police investigation."

He said it would undoubtedly make life harder for those currently serving in southern Iraq, adding: "I am sure certain imams are revelling in it and using this to whip up tension.

"The bottom line is that we are looking at British servicemen, clearly acting inappropriately, but we must remember the standard set for British servicemen is the highest set for anyone in the world. These people would not have been throwing hand grenades at any other army. They would not do that to the Jordanians or the Egyptians or the Israelis because they would shoot them," he added.

A military spokeswoman in Basra insisted the situation remained quiet but acknowledged that a backlash was feared.

Catalogue of shame and humiliation

* APRIL 2004: Images of Iraqi prisoners, naked except for hoods and forced into humiliating poses, emerge. They were said to show abuse by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison. Six soldiers faced court martial.

* APRIL 2004: Pictures purporting to show British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners were published in the Daily Mirror. They turned out to be fake. A court martial against the soldier accused of taking the pictures was dropped.

* JANUARY 2005: Three British soldiers appeared at a court martial in Osnabrück, accused of abuse at Camp Breadbasket near Basra in 2003. Charges dropped against one soldier who pleaded guilty to assault, while two others were found guilty of mistreatment. They received sentences of up to two years. Photographs were taken by a soldier who was sentenced to nine months.

* JULY 2005: Seven British soldiers were charged with "negligently performing a duty" after the death of hotel receptionist, allegedly after being beaten by troops. The case is outstanding.

* SEPTEMBER 2005: Seven paras accused of murdering an 18-year-old in 2003 go on trial. In November, all seven defendants are cleared on grounds of insufficient evidence.

* JANUARY 2006: A US chief warrant officer is found guilty of killing a captured Iraqi general in November 2003 by stuffing his head into a sleeping bag and sitting on him.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links