British soldiers who served in Basra, southern Iraq, in 2007 said they were allowed to shoot anyone holding a phone or shovel, or acting in a way deemed suspicious.
A Middle East Eye investigation established that the British army had applied rules of engagement that sometimes allowed soldiers to shoot unarmed civilians suspected of monitoring them in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Several former soldiers interviewed by MEE indicated that children and adolescents were among the victims.
Two former infantrymen claim that they and their comrades serving in southern Iraq have been allowed to shoot anyone holding a mobile phone, carrying a shovel or acting suspiciously.
Soviet-era weapons were reportedly removed from a reserve at the British base and placed beside the bodies to give the false impression that the teenagers were armed Taliban fighters
In addition, a former member of the Royal Navy reported that one of his officers confessed to his men that he was responsible for the shooting death of an Afghan boy about 8 years old, after the child’s father had carried his dead body to the entrance of their forward operating base and demanded explanations.
Another former soldier told MEE that a cover-up operation was carried out after he reportedly witnessed the shooting deaths of two unarmed teenagers in Afghanistan.
According to him, Soviet-era weapons were removed from a reserve at the British base and placed beside the bodies to give the false impression that the teenagers were armed Taliban fighters.
This man says he saw similar weapons stored in other bases. “I’m pretty sure they were kept for that purpose. Every day, soldiers from the headquarters visited us and these weapons could easily have been catalogued and returned. »
The relaxation of the rules of engagement has led to “a killing”.
A former soldier claims to have witnessed the shooting deaths of a significant number of civilians in Basra, and does not believe that all the victims were watching British troops. He believes that the relaxation of the rules of engagement has resulted in “a killing”.
He also said that he and his comrades were promised protection in the event of a military police investigation. “Our commanders told us: “We will protect you in case of an investigation. Just say that you really thought your life was in danger – these words will protect you.” »
MEE was not able to independently verify all of the interviewees’ stories. However, several former soldiers made very similar allegations after serving in different units, at different times and in two different theatres of war.
The British Ministry of Defence declined to comment.