British soldiers tortured and murdered up to 20 Iraqis in cold blood, the High Court was told yesterday.
It happened after a three-hour gun battle at an Army checkpoint near Basra, a lawyer claimed.
Rabinder Singh said a group of local men were taken prisoner and transported to an Army camp where they were beaten with a rusty tent pole, punched, slammed against walls, denied water, blasted with loud music and forced to strip naked in the presence of a woman – a humiliation for Muslim men.
The next day, he said, only nine were still alive – and 20 corpses were returned to their families. One was teenager Hamid Al-Sweady.
The Army claims the men all died in the initial gun battle, but Hamid’s uncle Khuder Al-Sweady and five survivors of the incident yesterday began a court battle in London to win an independent inquiry.
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The clash in May 2004 came after insurgents launched a heavy attack on a checkpoint known as Danny Boy in Al Majar-al-Kabir – the town north of Basra where six military policeman had been murdered the previous year.
According to Army accounts, the soldiers were heavily outnumbered but fought back heroically, mounting a bayonet charge at one point, until the attackers were defeated. The Army says only nine Iraqis were taken away alive for questioning.