Black Watch leave 'Triangle of Death'

The Black Watch arrived back in Basra yesterday, bringing to an end the regiment's controversial month-long mission to Camp Dogwood near the "Triangle of Death" in central Iraq.

The Black Watch arrived back in Basra yesterday, bringing to an end the regiment's controversial month-long mission to Camp Dogwood near the "Triangle of Death" in central Iraq.

A battle group convoy of more than 200 vehicles arrived at the relative safety of Shaibah Logistics Base, with the returning soldiers dedicating their campaign to the five colleagues who died on the deployment.

The civilian death toll in Iraq also remains a source of concern, and this week an eminent group of nearly 40 ambassadors, military commanders and senior politicians will urge Tony Blair to set up an official inquiry into the question of how many have been killed.

Lord Tim Garden, the former assistant chief of the defence staff, Oliver Miles, the former ambassador to Greece and Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, are among the signatories to a letter accusing the Prime Minister of ignoring the fate of tens of thousands of Iraqis thought to have been killed.

The letter, which is expected to be delivered to Downing Street on Wednesday, calls on Mr Blair to examine claims in The Lancet in October that up to 100,000 civilians might have died - chiefly from coalition air strikes. The demand will rekindle a long-running controversy over the lack of authoritative figures on civilian casualties. An independent estimate by the website iraqbodycount, using media reports of casualties and scarce official figures, suggested the toll is at least 16,000.

Ministers and the Iraqi authorities admit they have no clear idea of the death toll but claim that hospital figures show it is as low as 4,000 - a figure widely rejected as inaccurate.

The new campaign for an official inquiry being launched this week will centre on claims that the UK and the United States have broken their legal and moral duty under treaties such as the Geneva Conventions to protect Iraqi civilians.

Mr Miles, whoco-wrote the damaging letter signed by 52 British former diplomats attacking the Government's policies over Palestine and Iraq in April, said that it was "a disgrace" that the coalition had done "nothing" to discover how many Iraqis had died. The initiative, organised by the medical charity Medact and the military think-tank the Oxford Research Group, is also supported by the US civil rights group Human Rights Watch.

A spokesman for Downing Street made no comment in advance of the letter.

* Terry Davis, the leader of the 46-nation Council of Europe, has called on Britain to repeal controversial laws under which 10 foreign terror suspects have been held without trial for nearly three years.

Mr Davis, a former Labour MP, warned that "it is quite wrong to abuse human rights to combat terrorism".

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