British Army pays £1m to Iraqi families

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The Independent Online

Almost £1m has been paid to Iraqi civilians in compensation for injuries and damage to property caused by British soldiers, the Ministry of Defence disclosed.

Some of the payments have gone to families of Iraqis shot dead during military operations. A small number of these cases are still being pursued in the British courts and could lead to much higher payouts.

Most of the money has been paid to homeowners whose properties were damaged or destroyed. One of the biggest bills came after the Army stormed an Iraqi police station to release two SAS soldiers in Basra in September.

In another case the Army apologised for raiding the home of a prominent MP from Basra and arresting his family. Officers blamed an intelligence blunder for mistaking Mansour Abdulrazzaq Mansour, one of its closest allies in Iraq's second city, for an insurgent.

The MP, a member of the Shia coalition, said British tanks and helicopters surrounded his house then blew off his front door.

Lawyers for some Iraqi families challenging the Government to a full independent inquiry into the war in Iraq blame army heavy-handedness for the deaths, injuries and damage to property. They have also criticised the Army for adopting a policy of paying low levels of compensation. The compensation bill covers claims dating back to 2003.

Adam Ingram, the Armed Forces minister, said in a Commons written answer that the Ministry of Defence had paid £975,351 to settle 626 claims, mostly relating to property damage.

The Defence Secretary, John Reid, visited British troops in Iraq yesterday and met soldiers from the divisional command in Basra. He also watched Iraqi troops training to take over security duties in the area.

The trip - Mr Reid's second as Defence Secretary - comes two weeks before Iraqis vote in elections for a constitutional assembly.

He said it was a chance to thank British and Iraqi troops for their work to ensure the poll could go ahead.

"The elections on 15 December represent a further milestone for the political process in Iraq in what has already been a historical year," he said.

"More than 10 million people voted in January, and a constitution has been drafted and passed by the Iraqis, for the Iraqis."