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British troops face new Iraq prisoner abuse claims
Updated: 2004-05-07 11:28

Britain's Ministry of Defense said it was investigating fresh charges of mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq after a newspaper on Friday published the testimony of a British soldier who said he had witnessed severe beatings.

The Daily Mirror newspaper said the man had given military police full details of the attacks, including names and ranks of the soldiers involved in the beatings.

The soldier, a trooper with the same regiment already at the center of an investigation into abuse of Iraqi prisoners, said the violence was led by three ringleaders.

"I witnessed four beatings when people where punched and kicked," the soldier told the Mirror. "They'd be on their knees, and when they dropped their hands they'd be kicked until they raised them again."

On one occasion, a corporal went up to a prisoner who had a sandbag over his face and poked his fingers into the man's eyeballs until he was screaming in pain, the soldier said.

The Ministry of Defense said an investigation was under way.

"We can confirm that an individual who's come forward to the Daily Mirror with allegations has spoken to Royal Military Police this evening," a ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

He said several investigations into charges of abuse were already under way and it was not clear if the new allegations referred to incidents that were already being probed.

The Mirror, which opposed the war in Iraq, published pictures last week apparently showing British soldiers urinating on a hooded prisoner and beating him with a rifle butt.

The pictures appeared soon after images emerged in the United States of U.S. soldiers at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib jail humiliating naked prisoners, causing outrage in the Muslim world and beyond.

The Mirror's rival British newspapers have suggested the photographs the paper published of British troops might be fake, unlike the American pictures.

The government says it is unsure of the authenticity of the Mirror's pictures but is investigating the allegations.

"The abuse of prisoners and torture of prisoners, the degrading treatment of people in the custody of the coalition forces is completely and totally unacceptable and inexcusable," Prime Minister Tony Blair told reporters on Thursday.

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