Official confirmation that army witnesses among those making claims over killing and abuse of civilians at Camb Abu Naji
British soldiers have accused colleagues of abusing Iraqis they shot or detained after an intense gunfight with insurgents in 2004, the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the incident heard on Tuesday.
The inquiry was told that a soldier fired a weapon into a “twitching” body, threw rocks at a prisoner’s head, pushed him into a ditch where he nearly drowned, and hit him in the chest, stomach, and face.
The allegations were made by British army witnesses who will give evidence to the al-Sweady inquiry in London over claims that British soldiers killed 20 unarmed civilians and abused others at Camp Abu Naji after what became known as the Battle of Danny Boy, a British military checkpoint near Majar al-Kabir, on 14 May 2004.
It is the first official confirmation that British soldiers are among those making the claims.
Questioned on Tuesday at the inquiry, Stuart Henderson, at the time a sergeant in the 1st Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, strongly denied some of the allegations from British soldiers. When other claims made against him or soldiers directly under his command were put to him, he said he was unaware of them or did not personally witness them.
He described a fierce gunfight after his military convoy was ambushed. The soldiers left their vehicles and spread out in the surrounding countryside as they came under fire from insurgents.
Henderson, giving evidence by videolink from Australia where he now lives, described how at one point he fired his automatic rifle at two men no more than a foot away. “I have no doubt that if I had not opened fire I would have been killed. At the time I thought I was a ‘goner’,” he told the inquiry.
After the gun battle, he ordered his men to load 10 bodies “unceremoniously” into Land Rovers as quickly as possible in case they came under renewed attack.
“When the men had loaded I tried to shut the tailgate of one of the Land Rovers but I could not do so because the head of one of the bodies was in the way”, he said. “I recall, I put my boot on the head of the body and pushed it into the Land Rover so I could shut the tailgate. I think a bit of blood may have come out of the mouth of the dead body but not much.”
Henderson said he heard later that the bodies of 40 dead Iraqis had been taken to Camp Abu Naji. He said no one expressed concern to him about the way the bodies or detainees were treated.
But he said two of his soldiers took a photograph of the inside of a Land Rover. It was “very messy and there was lots of blood after the bodies had been removed”.
Henderson added: “I think the photograph was taken because it was not a job they had relished and they wanted to show me how …read more