British army colonel denies mutilation of Iraqis in 2004
LONDON -- A British army colonel Monday denied that troops mutilated the bodies of Iraqis after a battle in 2004, on the first day of military evidence at a public inquiry into the accusations.
The Al-Sweady Inquiry, which was ordered in 2009, is also investigating claims that British soldiers abused and killed at least 20 Iraqis detained after the Battle of Danny Boy near the town of Majar-al-Kabir in May 2004.
"I did not believe any of our soldiers had mutilated a body and I did not see at the time, and have not seen since, any evidence to support this proposition," Col. Richard Griffiths said.
The accusations were "baseless and caused by a combination of ignorance amongst the local population as to the traumatic injuries that can be suffered in combat and the misinformation spread by insurgents who wished to discredit the coalition forces," he said.
Griffiths was in charge of a group of soldiers ambushed by Iraqi insurgents near a British army checkpoint named Danny Boy. The attack turned into a three-hour pitched battle, one of the most violent fought by the British during the Iraq war.
The British army says after the battle, it took some of the bodies back to its Camp Abu Naji and later handed them over to relatives. It denies the Iraqi accusations and says all of the dead were killed in battle.
The colonel said he had seen no evidence of the mistreatment of prisoners on the battlefield or at the army base, and when asked if he had witnessed any executions replied "categorically no."
The inquiry, named after one of the Iraqis who died, began hearing oral evidence in March and has so far heard from Iraqi witnesses and experts. It is not expected to report until late next year.