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UK: Abuse photos not taken in Iraq
Updated: 2004-05-14 08:40

Dramatic pictures said to show British troops abusing Iraqi prisoners were not taken in Iraq, the UK government has said.

Armed forces minister Adam Ingram told MPs Thursday an inquiry by military police found the truck seen in the photos published by the Daily Mirror newspaper "was never in Iraq."

The pictures of British troops apparently abusing prisoners sparked a storm in Britain. [AFP/File]
The investigation of the photos is continuing and may result in criminal prosecution, he told the House of Commons.

"We had to treat these photos at face value. That value has changed," Ingram said. "These pictures were categorically not taken in Iraq."

Ingram told the Commons he was disturbed that there were those who were prepared to "casually vilify our armed forces without first establishing the facts."

In a statement, Daily Mirror Editor Piers Morgan said: "We have listened to what Mr Ingram has said today, but he has still not produced incontrovertible evidence that the pictures are faked."

The Conservative opposition asked the Mirror's publishers what action they intended to take against Morgan.

"Those who connived with the production of those photographs and those who published them did a great wrong," said Conservative defense spokesman Keith Simpson.

A source in the accused Queen's Lancashire Regiment told Reuters the regiment itself was convinced the Mirror's pictures were fake.

"The regiment is angry," he said. "They are very angry at the publication of what they were convinced from the beginning were fake photographs."

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday said the Mirror's pictures were "almost certainly faked."

Blair said last week that "human rights abuses, torture or degradation" of prisoners were "wholly unacceptable." But he said it would be "extremely serious" if the photos turned out to be fakes.

Morgan has been accused of endangering the lives of coalition soldiers by printing them. Iraqi captors who recently beheaded American contractor Nicholas Berg said the killing was in part a response to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by Americans at Abu Ghraib prison. 

But the UK government's dismissal of the photos is unlikely to quell the storm raging around the world about the treatment of Iraqi detainees, most analysts predict.

Photos of alleged abuse by U.S. forces have also prompted outrage -- particularly in the Arab world -- and led to days of hearings on Capitol Hill. Seven soldiers face criminal charges, and three of them have been formally referred for court-martial.

In Britain Blair has also come under fire over a report from the International Red Cross (ICRC) about abuses in Iraq. In parliament on Wednesday he denied being slow to act on the report.

But he admitted that the past few days had been "immensely damaging." Blair admitted Wednesday he had not seen the ICRC report -- drawn up in February -- until Monday and did not know of the allegations contained in it before then.

The report was not passed to ministers in February because all of the allegations relating to British troops were already being dealt with, Blair said.

The prime minister said the deaths of 33 civilians had been investigated, and that there was no case to answer in 15 of them. The military police would shortly announce action on six others.

An Amnesty International released Tuesday listed only one case of a civilian death which was not already known to the government, Blair said.

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