A BRITISH soldier fired a volley of bullets into the “twitching” bodies of Iraqis after a firefight, a public inquiry has heard.
Former army private Duncan Aston yesterday told the Al-Sweady Inquiry into alleged brutality by British forces he also saw a fellow private stamp on the head of a dead Iraqi, and other comrades punch and kick a detainee. He did not report the incidents because he did not want to “grass” on his friends.
The inquiry heard an “angry” sergeant emptied a magazine into the bodies of Iraqis during the “Battle of Danny Boy” on 14 May 2004.
The Al-Sweady Inquiry is examining allegations that British troops mistreated and unlawfully killed Iraqi detainees after the Battle of Danny Boy. It is claimed that 20 or more Iraqis were unlawfully killed at Camp Abu Naji (Can) near Majar-al-Kabir on 14 and 15 May 2004, and detainees were ill-treated there and later at Shaibah logistics base.
The Ministry of Defence has denied the allegations.
Mr Aston, who was serving with the 2nd Battalion the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (2PWRR) but has since left the army, told the inquiry he was sent from nearby Camp Condor after a “rover group” was ambushed as it travelled to Can.
In a witness statement to the inquiry, he described how, after a firefight with Iraqi insurgents, he was collecting weapons from dead gunmen in a ditch when he noticed two were “twitching”.
“At the time, I assumed that because they were twitching this meant that there must be some life there,” he said.
Mr Aston recalled that his platoon sergeant, Paul Kelly, approach the ditch “looking very angry” and tried to fire at one of the twitching men, but his weapon did not work.
“He then threw his rifle to the ground and said words to the effect of, ‘Give me your weapon’.”
He assumed Sgt Kelly wanted to fire his rifle at the bodies, but did not feel he could say no, Mr Aston told the hearing in London. “He put a full magazine of bullets into both bodies that had been twitching but he also fired into the bodies of the other dead gunmen in the ditch. The bodies of the two twitching gunmen stopped twitching.”
Sgt Kelly gave the rifle back, and the incident was not mentioned between them, he said.
Under questioning from Neil Garnham QC, who is representing hundreds of soldiers involved in the case, Mr Aston said he could not explain why a man he claimed had been assaulted in a derelict building – of whom the inquiry was shown a picture – had not made any allegations of being attacked.
He said he had not stopped the soldiers carrying out the alleged mistreatment, despite them being his friends, as they might end up “turning” on him.
Asked why he had not reported the behaviour he claimed to have seen after leaving the army in 2005, he said: “I wanted to leave the army behind. I was ready to start another life so I didn’t feel the need to report it.”
The inquiry heard that other soldiers disagreed with Mr Aston’s version of events. But the 28-year-old denied he was a “fantasist”, saying: “I am just telling you the accounts as I said it, that’s all I am doing.”
Asked if Sgt Kelly – whom the inquiry heard had won a Military Cross for his role in a previous incident in Iraq when he was shot in the hand – had in fact assaulted a ditch where he believed armed insurgents posed a threat, he said: “Well, they didn’t look very effective to me. I just thought it was pretty shocking what he did.”
The inquiry was adjourned until today.