LONDON – In the latest alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners, a tabloid newspaper reported Friday that British soldiers punched and kicked Iraqi prisoners and one corporal poked a detainee's eyes until the man screamed.
The Daily Mirror (search) quoted an unidentified British soldier as saying he saw four brutal beatings of prisoners during his deployment in southern Iraq. The man reportedly said British troops regularly placed sandbags over captives' heads and hit their faces, and that officers sanctioned such actions.
British authorities are investigating photos published in the Daily Mirror last week allegedly showing British soldiers threatening and urinating on prisoners in Iraq. The authenticity of those photographs has been questioned, but the newspaper insists they are genuine.
Those photos come amid a major scandal over photos of U.S. troops tormenting and humiliating their prisoners at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison (search) outside Baghdad.
The Ministry of Defense said Thursday that it was questioning the man, whom the Daily Mirror identified only as "Soldier C."
The ministry said the man had gone to the Royal Military Police (search) with allegations of mistreatment of prisoners and was being questioned in London. No arrests have been made over his accusations, the ministry said.
"The main thing was holding prisoners' hands up and they'd whack them in the ribs," the newspaper quoted the man as saying. "It would happen on every shift. Whenever guards changed over they'd all do the same. So these guys would just get a continual battering."
Piers Morgan, editor of the Daily Mirror, told British Broadcasting Corp. television that "Soldier C" would give the military police "potential evidence."
"He will also be naming the names of the people responsible, including corporals and sergeants and some senior officers who he says were culpable in tacitly allowing this to happen," Morgan said.
The newspaper quoted the soldier as saying his colleagues would put sacks over newly arrived prisoners' heads and then beat them.
"They were so scared, they couldn't see where they were going," he said. "They were trying to fight it as they were dragged around. One guy's trousers fell down to his ankles. Everything was in the open and everyone was laughing at him while he was running around."
Prisoners were forced to remain in uncomfortable "stress positions" for hours on end and some were placed near hot air exhaust pipes during in sweltering weather, he said.
The Guardian newspaper, meanwhile, quoted a former contract employee at Abu Ghraib prison saying that abuses reflected organizational stresses as well as individual misbehavior.
Torin Nelson was quoted as saying that the style of U.S. operations contributed to abuses.
The Guardian newspaper, in a report from Washington, said Nelson formerly served as an interrogator attached to the Utah National Guard at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay.
Nelson, who was employed by Titan Corp. (search) and attached to the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade at Abu Ghraib, was among the people interviewed by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba for an internal U.S. Army report about abuses at the prison.
"A unit goes out on a raid and they have a target and the target is not available; they just grab anybody because that was their job," Nelson said.
"I've read reports from capturing units where the capturing unit wrote, 'the target was not at home. The neighbor came out to see what was going on and we grabbed him,'" he said, according to the newspaper.
Nelson said some of the interrogators used by private contractors weren't well trained.
"It's kind of a hit or miss. They're under so much pressure to fill slots quickly ... They penalize contracting companies if they can't fill slots on time and it looks bad on companies' records. If you're in such a hurry to get bodies, you end up with cooks and truck drivers doing intelligence work."