Soldiers arrested after Iraqi beaten and drowned
At least two British soldiers have been arrested in connection with the allegation that troops murdered an Iraqi teenager, the Guardian has learned.
The arrests were made by members of the Royal Military police investigating the death of Ahmed Jabbar Kareem, 17, who was allegedly beaten before drowning in a river in Basra, southern Iraq.
He is one of a number of Iraqi civilians alleged to have died or to have been ill treated by British troops since the toppling of Saddam Hussein.
The two soldiers were arrested and interviewed under caution by the special investigation branch, which is continuing to investigate the death. The Ministry of Defence would not say when they were arrested, but they are believed to have been released and to have returned to their unit.
The teenager was allegedly arrested by British soldiers who beat him in May 2003. They then allegedly ordered him to swim across the Zubair river, but his injuries from the assault were too severe and he drowned.
His father, Jabbar Kareem Ali, says his son's body was exhumed by army investigators, according to a statement seen by the Guardian. They made a request to exhume the corpse on May 28.
He says the key witness to the incident, Ayad Salim Hannon, was allegedly kept at British army headquarters from 7pm to 5am.
He was shown a video of the suspects but could not pick them out.
Mr Ali says he, too, was interviewed by investigators. "The officer told me that they have arrested four soldiers who were responsible for my son's death," he added.
A spokesman for the MoD refused to give basic details about the investigation, but said: "The investigation is still ongoing at the moment.
"We are unable to confirm if any soldiers have been arrested. None has been charged."
He said it was MoD policy not to comment on arrests, but it would be wrong to infer guilt or innocence from an arrest.
The case is one of more than 30 brought by Iraqi victims of alleged abuses by British soldiers currently before the high court.
Phil Shiner, Mr Ali's solicitor, said the MoD were not pursuing the investigations vigorously enough.
"The MoD are just going through the motions. Their ethos is so out of date, almost rooted in colonial times, they just seem to be incapable of conceptualising basic standards of legality, morality and decency," he said.
The military authorities are investigating a total of 75 cases of alleged killings or ill-treatment by British troops.
Four soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers are to be court martialled for allegedly abusing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners, including forcing them to commit sexual acts on each other. One death is being investigated by Scotland Yard.
The MoD spokesman denied that it was not taking the investigation seriously.
"We are determined to establish the facts of the case and, if applicable, punish any of those implicated in the death of Ahmed Kareem," he said.
· A British soldier, who was shot dead days before he was due to return home to his family in London, was buried yesterday with full military honours.
Private Lee O'Callaghan, 20, from Bermondsey, was killed during clashes with insurgents in Basra on August 9.
A dozen members of the 1st Battalion, The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, with which he was serving when he was killed in the southern Iraqi city, fired a volley of shots into the air after his coffin was lowered.
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