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Spate of Iraq attacks kills 17: officials
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Sept 02, 2013

British troops deny mutilating Iraq insurgents' corpses
London, England (AFP) Sept 02, 2013 - British army officials on Monday dismissed "baseless rumours" that troops mutilated the bodies of dead Iraqi insurgents after a 2004 battle, as a public inquiry heard its first evidence from military witnesses.

The Al-Sweady Inquiry is investigating claims that British troops committed human rights abuses in the aftermath of a notorious firefight near the town of Majar al-Kabir, southwest Iraq, that came to be known as the "Battle of Danny Boy" after a nearby checkpoint.

Troops are accused of unlawfully killing 20 or more Iraqis at Camp Abu Naji near Majar-al-Kabir in May 2004, and ill-treating detainees there as well as later at Shaibah Logistics Base, also in southwest Iraq.

But at a hearing in London on Monday, Colonel Adam Griffiths said he had not seen any evidence to suggest that around a dozen bodies taken to Camp Abu Naji were mutilated before being returned to relatives, or that detainees had been mistreated.

"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," he told the inquiry.

He suggested that the rumours sprang from "ignorance amongst the local population as to the traumatic injuries that can be suffered in combat" as well as insurgents' efforts to discredit the US-led troops that had invaded Iraq in 2003.

Some of the bodies had broken limbs as well as gunshot wounds, Griffiths said, but he believed those injuries could have been caused by ammunition.

The colonel admitted that an order to take the bodies back to the camp was "highly unusual".

He insisted the order must have been given for good reason -- possibly to help identify a suspect in the murder of six British military policemen the year before.

Sergeant James Gadsby, who helped unload the bodies at Camp Abu Naji, also said in evidence to the hearing that the corpses appeared to have only battlefield injuries.

"I did not observe any injuries that I believe were inconsistent with having been sustained as a result of the firing of ammunition commonly used on the battlefield," he said.

Set up in 2009, the Al-Sweady Inquiry has been hearing testimony since March but until Monday only experts and Iraqi witnesses had spoken.

Up to 200 British military witnesses are set to give evidence in the coming months.

The inquiry -- named after one of the dead men, 19-year-old Hamid Al-Sweady --is the second probe into the abuse allegations, after high court judges ruled that an earlier investigation by the Royal Military Police was inadequate.

There have been complaints in Britain over the spiralling cost of the investigation, which currently stands at 19 million ($30 million, 22 million euros).

Attacks in Baghdad and mostly Sunni areas of Iraq killed 17 people Monday, including eight in a coordinated attack on the home of an anti-Qaeda militia chief, officials said.

The Turkish consul to the northern city of Mosul and a top criminal judge in executed dictator Saddam Hussein's home town were also caught in bomb attacks.

The violence was the latest in a surge of unrest that has killed more than 3,800 people this year and sparked widespread concern that Iraq is slipping back towards the all-out bloodshed which plagued it in 2006 and 2007.

Authorities have pushed a massive security campaign targeting militants, but analysts and diplomats have cautioned that the government must also address the root causes of the violence.

Monday's deadliest attack was against the west Baghdad home of Wissam al-Hardan, who was appointed earlier this year by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to lead the Sahwa, a collection of Sunni tribal militias.

Officials said two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside Hardan's home at around 3:00 pm (1200 GMT), followed by a car bomb that went off as emergency responders arrived.

In all, eight people were killed and 14 were wounded, including Hardan himself.

The militia chief was taken to a hospital inside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, home to the US and British embassies and parliament.

Another attack on a Sahwa checkpoint -- this time a suicide car bomb -- on the outskirts of the restive city of Baquba, north of Baghdad, killed four people and wounded 10.

From late 2006 onwards, Sunni tribal militias turned against their co-religionists in Al-Qaeda and sided with the US military, helping to turn the tide of Iraq's bloody insurgency.

As a result, however, Sunni militants view them as traitors and frequently target them.

The government has increasingly turned to Sahwa fighters as it combats a surge in unrest, with violence at its highest level since 2008.

Also on Monday, a bomb attack hit the convoy of the Turkish consul in Mosul, according to diplomatic sources who said that while no one was wounded, all of the convoy's vehicles were badly damaged.

"It's not yet clear who carried out the attack and against whom," a Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said, adding that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had called the consul for more details.

"The investigation is continuing. We have contacted the Iraqi authorities immediately after the incident and asked that the culprits be found out and that the security of our missions be enhanced."

Ties between Iraq and Turkey have worsened considerably in recent years, and the blast apparently targeting the consul is not the first suffered by Turkey's diplomatic mission to the country.

In January 2012, at least one mortar round struck the outer compound wall of Ankara's embassy in Baghdad, without causing casualties.

In Saddam's home town of Tikrit, a top criminal judge and five of his guards were wounded by a car bomb, while violence in Baghdad, Mosul and the mostly Sunni city of Fallujah left five dead, officials said.

Iraq has seen a marked rise in the level of violence this year, coinciding with demonstrations by the Sunni minority against alleged ill-treatment at the hands of the Shiite-led government and security forces.


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