Britain's defense ministry says it will formally order a public inquiry this week into the alleged abuse and killing of Iraqi civilians by British soldiers.
The ministry says Defense Secretary Bob Ainsworth will make a written statement to lawmakers Wednesday ordering a study into a battle near the southern Iraq town of Majar al-Kabir in May 2004
Lawyers allege British soldiers may have tortured and executed up to 20 Iraqis after the battle — the most serious allegations of abuse made against British forces.
The British military denies the accusations, and says the dead were insurgents killed in a gun battle after ambushing British troops.
Lawyers say they expected the inquiry to begin late next year. It will likely be led by a retired judge.