A former commander of a British Army regiment said Monday that photos purporting to show some of the unit’s soldiers abusing an Iraqi prisoner had “too many inconsistencies” to be genuine.
The Daily Mirror newspaper stood by the photos, which allegedly show a hooded Iraqi being pushed, threatened and urinated on by a soldier from the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment.
Col. David Black, who led the regiment in the 1980s, told British Broadcasting Corp. television that equipment and a truck pictured in the photos had not been used by the regiment in Iraq. He said he did not believe the photos had been taken in the Middle Eastern country.
“The evidence we have seen so far looking at the photographs, there are too many inconsistencies,” he said.
British military police are investigating the photos, which the Daily Mirror said had been supplied by two serving members of the regiment. On Monday it quoted one of the unidentified soldiers as saying he had seen “literally hundreds” of similar pictures.
Blair condemns alleged abuse
Prime Minister Tony Blair has condemned the alleged abuse by British soldiers, but said the vast majority of troops “are doing a fantastic job for the Iraqi people.”
An opposition politician said Monday that the images, which have been reproduced around the world, would lead to more attacks on British troops whether they were genuine or not.
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said the photographs would dismay many in the Arab and Muslim world and confirm “their worst assumptions about us.”
“This will drive further younger elements into the more radical and violent hands and I fear will just help create still more suicide bombers,” he told BBC radio.
The British claims surfaced after the American network CBS broadcast pictures of American troops sexually abusing Iraqi prisoners. Six U.S. soldiers face courts-martial in connection with allegations of mistreatment of detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. Seven more have received official reprimands, a U.S. military official said Monday.
The images come at a difficult time for Blair, who is considering sending more troops to Iraq to plug the hole left by the withdrawal of Spanish soldiers.
His staunch support for U.S. policy in Iraq has been a hard sell to a skeptical British public.
Human rights group Amnesty International said it had warned U.S. and British authorities in Iraq that captives were being abused.
The British army is already investigating eight soldiers accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners, and the U.S. army has brought criminal charges against six soldiers relating to abuses from November and December 2003 on 20 detainees.