The British government has ordered an inquiry into politically damaging allegations that its troops were involved in more than 30 cases of Abu Ghraib-style torture and abuse of Iraqi civilians. It, however, rejected calls for a public inquiry arguing that allegations did not mean these were fact.

Since British troops moved out of Iraq earlier this year, a number of Iraqis have come forward with shocking accounts of how they were allegedly tortured and humiliated simply because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The incidents, reported from six different locations in Basra where British troops were deployed, allegedly involved mock executions, rape, exposure to pornography and electric shocks.

Complainants said that they did not speak out while British troops were still there because of fear of retribution.

The inquiry follows a front-page expose in The Independent under the heading “Britain’s Abu Ghraib”. In one case, British soldiers allegedly piled bodies of Iraqi prisoners on top of each other and subjected them to electric shocks in an echo of the abuse by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.

Nassir Ghulaim, a young Iraqi, claims he was playing football with friends in April, 2007 when he and another Iraqi were picked up and taken to a British base where they were asked to strip, sexually humiliated and forced to squeeze while one soldier stood on top of them.

Armed forces Minister Bill Rammell said: “Allegations of this nature are taken very seriously. However allegations must not be taken as fact.”

This is the latest in a series of allegations of abuse involving British soldiers.

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