LONDON – Two dead bodies shown in television footage from Iraq probably are those of British soldiers reported missing in action, the Defense Ministry said Thursday.
The footage was aired Wednesday on the Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera, showing two dead bodies and two prisoners beingheld by the Iraqis.
A spokesman for the Defense Ministry said the bodies appeared to be those of two British soldiers missing since their Land Rover was ambushed Sunday at Az Zubayr, near Basra.
"Although formal identification has yet to be carried out, it is probable that these are the two personnel classified lost and missing," said Group Capt. Al Lockwood, a British military spokesman in Qatar.
British officials have not confirmed whether the two purported prisoners shown in the footage are linked to the British military.
Twenty-two British troops have now been killed since the conflict in Iraq began -- 14 in accidents, two by "friendly fire" and four in combat.
The Al-Jazeera video showed bloodied bodies in uniform lying on a dusty road. The station said the two prisoners -- one of whom had dreadlocked hair -- might be Kenyans working for the British.
Lockwood condemned the station for airing the footage, which he called "a flagrant and disgraceful breach of the Geneva Conventions.
"We are shocked and appalled that the Iraqi regime has released close-up television pictures that claim to show dead U.K. military personnel," he said.
The video prompted anger from the British tabloid press. The Sun branded the footage "sickening," while The Times said the "gruesome" images had outraged military officials.
Prime Minister Tony Blair reacted "with horror" when he was told of the footage when he arrived in Washington for meetings with President Bush, Blair's official spokesman said
Lockwood said the soldiers' next of kin had been identified. The identities of the men have not been announced, though newspapers reported they were attached to the "Desert Rats," Britain's 7th Armored Brigade, which has been in the thick of fighting around Basra.
Two journalists from Britain's ITN television news also have been missing in southern Iraq since Saturday, when their car came under fire on the way to Basra. ITN correspondent Terry Lloyd was killed in the attack, which ITN blames on "friendly fire" from British or American soldiers.