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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

Britain Looks Into Reports of Mutilations

June 20, 2004|From Reuters

LONDON — Britain is investigating reports that its soldiers mutilated the bodies of Iraqi civilians after a gun battle last month, the Defense Ministry said Saturday.

A ministry spokeswoman said Britain "categorically denied" its soldiers had abused the bodies after the battle near the southern Iraqi town of Majar Kabir on May 14.

"We are investigating evidence that has been given to us, and should the outcome of that require it, we will commence a formal investigation into the incident, but at the moment we have no reason to believe that that's the case," she said.

The Sunday Telegraph newspaper said an Iraqi judge had ordered that some of the bodies be exhumed for further examination after families of the dead lodged formal complaints.

It said Iraqi doctors who examined the bodies said they had seen injuries that included mutilated genitals, gouged eyes and severed hands and had called for an independent examination.

The ministry said last week that the International Committee of the Red Cross complained about the treatment of prisoners captured after the same battle, which it was also investigating.

Britain has said 14 Iraqis died in the battle after a patrol was attacked by followers of Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr. Iraqi officials put the figure at 20, the paper said.

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