Britain opened a judge-led public inquiry on Monday into claims that its soldiers murdered and abused civilians in southern Iraq in 2004, some of the most serious allegations against British forces over the war and occupation of the country.

The al-Sweady Inquiry is investigating claims that up to 20 Iraqis were tortured and killed in May 2004 at a base in Maysan province after a battle between British troops and insurgents.

The inquiry is named for one of the dead, Hamid al-Sweady (19).

The British military denies abuse and says all the dead were killed in battle after ambushing British troops.

Several soldiers were decorated for bravery in the engagement dubbed the battle of Danny Boy after the checkpoint where it took place which included the British army’s first bayonet charge in two decades.

The government ordered the inquiry after Britain’s High Court ruled that an earlier Royal Military Police investigation — which found no evidence of wrongdoing — into the killings had been inadequate.

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