UK troops 'executed Iraqi grandmother'

Royal Military Police investigate latest allegation of abuse in Basra

Law Editor,Robert Verkaik
Monday 11 January 2010 01:00 GMT

Allegations that a 62-year-old Iraqi grandmother was tortured and executed by British soldiers after her family home was raided three years ago are being investigated by the Royal Military Police.

The Army's involvement in the death and abuse of Sabiha Khudur Talib is one of the most serious charges to be made against Britain during its six-year occupation of southern Iraq.

UK government ministers are to be given previously unseen police reports from a Basra crime unit which conclude that Mrs Talib's body was dumped on a roadside in a British body bag in November 2006. There was a bullet hole in her abdomen and her face had injuries consistent with torture, police reported.

An investigation led by Lieutenant Haidar Yashaa Salman from Al-Qibla police station of the Al-Hussein Police Directorate found: "At 11 o'clock, we were informed by the police operation room of the finding of a dumped body, so went to the site and found out that the body belonged to the victim Sabiha Khudur Talib, who was arrested by the British forces on 14-15 November 2006 ... I saw the body in a brown dish- dash [one-piece tunic], bare feet and hands with marks of handcuffs. I saw traces of torture on the body of the victim. I saw a non-penetrated bullet entry in the abdomen."

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that Sabiha Khudur Talib was shot by British soldiers from the Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment in 2006 but deny that she was murdered or tortured. The case is now being investigated by the Royal Military Police (RMP).

An MoD spokesman said that she had been caught in crossfire during the raid and died later in a military hospital.

But statements from her family, who were at home during the raid, claim that after the shooting they saw Mrs Talib being led away alive by British soldiers.

The MoD was unable to say yesterday which hospital she was treated at or to whom her body was handed.

The results of the Iraqi police investigation, seen by The Independent, were sent to Ghazi Dawoud Salman, an Iraqi judge, and to the Basra prosecution office.

Lawyers for Mrs Talib's family are preparing a legal action in the High Court in London against the MoD. They say the house was raided in the early hours of 15 November 2006, and that the family thought their home was being attacked by criminals. Mrs Talib's son, Karim Gatii Karim Al-Maliki, fired a Kalashnikov rifle into a ceiling to ward off intruders. But the family claim that the soldiers began firing into the house for 20 minutes, killing Mr Al-Maliki.

According to the eyewitness accounts, Mr Al-Maliki's brother and mother were arrested by the soldiers.

In his witness statement, Mr Al-Maliki's brother, Raad Gatii Karim Al-Maliki, 26, gives his account of the shooting: "My mother grabbed hold of me and pulled me into a corner where she cuddled me close. As the shots seemed to come from all angles into the room and we were both very exposed it was a miracle we were not shot. I did not dare move and recall that my mother began to pray."

He adds: "After what seemed like 20 minutes the firing stopped and British soldiers entered the house. One soldier pointed a laser beam at me and I immediately threw up my hands so he did not shoot me. A soldier grabbed me by my collar, lifted me up and threw me face down on to the floor. The soldiers had flashlights with them and at this point I saw my brother Karim sitting against the wall. He was still and I saw his blood all around. It was obvious he was dead."

Says Mr Al-Maliki: "My mother began shouting and pleading with the soldiers and she was calling out mine and Karim's names. Although the calls pained me at least I knew that she was alive."

Later he describes the soldiers leading his mother out of the house: "As I was kneeling on the ground I heard my mother shouting for me and Karim. I looked up and saw my mother being led roughly a couple of metres in front of me by four or five soldiers. I shouted to her. I could see my mother was trying to hold a blanket around her legs. I could see her body and I could see no signs of injury. I could not believe they were treating my old mother in this way."

Mr Al-Maliki says the soldiers led his mother to a military vehicle: "I was very worried about her, but could see she was at least uninjured. I then saw a soldier hit her on her back with a rifle butt. The soldiers pulled the blanket off her legs, wrapped this around her and shoved her into the vehicle. I had a clear view of this from where I was kneeling."

The next time the family saw Mrs Talib was when the police told them they had found a body on the Al-Zubayr highway.

Lawyers for the family last night demanded a full inquiry into what happened to Mrs Talib. Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, told The Independent: "The possibility that British forces in 2006 could have tortured and executed an innocent elderly woman should shock the nation. Such an allegation must be immediately independently investigated as a possible murder.

"How she came to be dumped in a British body bag by the side of a road having allegedly been abducted by British soldiers requires the most anxious scrutiny. No stone should be left unturned by the Government in an effort to establish the evidence in this case."

The Ministry of Defence said the allegations would be investigated. "A post-incident report from 1st Battalion the Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment describes an incident on 15 November 2006. Soldiers from the unit were conducting an arrest operation when an Iraqi national, Karim Gatii Karim, opened fire on them," said a spokesman. "One British soldier was wounded and Karim Gatii Karim was shot dead.

"Mr Karim's mother, Sabiha Khudur Talib, was regrettably wounded in the crossfire and, despite attempts to save her, she sadly died of her wounds. She was not tortured by British forces and her body was not dumped by the roadside, it was returned to Iraqi authorities. The Royal Military Police will be investigating allegations made by Mr Karim's brother and attempting to ascertain where Sabiha Khudur Talib was treated and by whom she was pronounced dead."

The case is one of 47 fresh claims of abuse and torture being investigated by the MoD.

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