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British troops face new charges as bodies of Iraqi civilians are exhumed
British troops may face new Iraq charges over civilian deaths: report
February 16

LONDON (AFP) - British troops may face new charges in Iraq as investigators explore fresh allegations of civilian deaths, a newspaper reported.

The Independent said it had uncovered evidence about the deaths of six Iraqi civilians in the British-controlled south of the country, whose families allege they were killed by British soldiers.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence in London had no immediate information on the report.

In a front-page article, the left-wing newspaper said that army investigators had exhumed the bodies of an unspecified number of civilians who were allegedly shot dead by soldiers and would carry out forensic tests.

"The Independent has uncovered evidence relating to the deaths of six Iraqi civilians whose families claim they were killed by British troops," it said, in the report dispatched from the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

The Army Prosecuting Authority was looking into two of these cases, which were expected to result in charges, the daily said.

"It is not known whether British troops will face any charges in relation to the other cases but the government is believed to be considering claims for compensation from the families," it said.

The news comes at a sensitive time for the army, with the trial of three British soldiers accused of abusing Iraqi civilians due to conclude soon.

The two fresh cases that are being investigated involve a man called Ghanim Gatteh al-Roaimi, who was allegedly killed outside his home in January 2004, and Waleed Faai Muzban, who was allegedly shot dead at an army checkpoint in August 2003, The Independent said.

Charges of abuse and murder have severely damaged the reputation of US-led forces in Iraq and heightened calls for them to leave.