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Britain Investigates Iraqi Prisoner Abuse Claims - 2004-05-01

Britain is investigating allegations that its soldiers abused an Iraqi prisoner whose fate is now uncertain. The allegations have surfaced after similar reports of prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

The British military is promising a thorough investigation into reports that troops serving in the southern Iraqi city of Basra beat and urinated on a prisoner.

The Daily Mirror newspaper printed five photographs Saturday of the alleged incident but did not say when it occurred. The newspaper quoted military sources saying the Iraqi man had been detained as a suspected thief. The newspaper says the prisoner was thrown from a moving truck after the beating, and his fate is not known.

Britain's military chief of staff, General Mike Jackson, announced the investigation at a London news conference.

"If proven, not only is such appalling conduct clearly unlawful, but it also contravenes the British army's high standards," he said. "The allegations are already under investigation. Again if proven, the perpetrators are not fit to wear the queen's uniform. They have besmirched the good name of the army, and its honor."

Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman said the allegations must be treated seriously but should not been viewed as a reflection of the general behavior of coalition forces.

The defense ministry says there have been a total of 10 investigations into alleged brutality by British soldiers against Iraqi prisoners. Five of the investigations are ongoing, including one into the alleged killing of a prisoner by soldiers of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, the same unit named in the Daily Mirror report.

The United States also has filed criminal charges against six of its soldiers accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison, which had been a torture center under the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. A general in command of the prison has been suspended.

President Bush said he was dismayed and disgusted over the alleged mistreatment. A U.S. television network this week showed photos of naked Iraqi prisoners apparently forced into humiliating poses while U.S. soldiers stood by and smiled.