Defence Ministry probes Iraqi torture claims

WORLD|AFP An investigation has been launched into allegations that British soldiers tortured Iraqi civilians, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said Friday.

The announcement of the probe came after the Independent newspaper said 33 cases of alleged abuse had been reported, including claims of rape, the use of torture techniques and physical assault.

The newspaper said the civilians claimed British soldiers in Iraq copied sexual and physical abuse from photographs taken at the notorious US-run Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad, which emerged in 2004.

A legal letter was served on the ministry last week by a lawyer representing the Iraqis, the report said.

Britain’s armed forces minister Bill Rammell said “formal investigations” must be carried out “without judgments being made prematurely”.

He added: “Over 120,000 British troops have served in Iraq and the vast, vast majority have conducted themselves to the highest standards of behaviour, displaying integrity and selfless commitment.

“While there have been instances when individuals have behaved badly, only a tiny number of individuals have been shown to have fallen short of our high standards.

“Allegations of this nature are taken very seriously, however allegations must not be taken as fact and formal investigations must be allowed to take their course without judgments being made prematurely.”

In the letter to the ministry, reported in the newspaper, lawyer Phil Shiner said: “Given the history of the UK’s involvement in the development of these techniques alongside the US, it is deeply concerning that there appears to be strong similarities between instances of the use of sexual humiliation.”

One claimant alleges he was raped by two British soldiers, while others say they were striped naked, abused and photographed between 2003 and 2007, the Independent reported.

Female British soldiers are alleged to have taken part in the alleged incidents.

Camp Bucca near Basra in southern Iraq, where British and US troops worked alongside each other, was named by the newspaper as one possible scene of the alleged abuse.

In September 2003, Iraqi hotel receptionist Baha Mousa died after suffering 93 injuries, including fractured ribs and a broken nose, while in British military custody in Basra, southern Iraq. A public inquiry into the case is taking place in London.

Photographs taken at Abu Ghraib showed naked and hooded prisoners being beaten until they bled by their US guards and made to commit humiliating acts such as simulated homosexual intercourse.

In 2006, then US President George W. Bush admitted the scandal was the biggest blunder Washington had made in its entire Iraq campaign, and the facility was closed and handed over to Iraqi control.

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Prince Charles introduces Camilla to Canada

Prince Charles (L) and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, are pictured in October 2009. Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, and his wife Camilla arrived in Newfoundland province Monday for the start of a Canadian tour and a look into Camilla's roots.

Prince Charles (L) and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, are pictured in October 2009. Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, and his wife Camilla arrived in Newfoundland province Monday for the start of a Canadian tour and a look into Camilla's roots.

Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, and his wife Camilla arrived in Newfoundland province Monday for the start of a Canadian tour and a look into Camilla’s roots.

Prince Charles said in a speech that his 15th trip to Canada is “something rather special.”

“But more special still, if I may say so, is the opportunity to introduce my wife to Canada for her first ever visit,” he added.

The couple were greeted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Governor General Michaelle Jean and other officials, and entertained at a local stadium by aboriginal drum dancers, a youth choir and a military band.

Tuesday, they will visit Canada’s oldest English settlement in Cupids, which is celebrating its 400th anniversary next year, and Brigus, home of famed Arctic explorer Captain Robert Bartlett, before heading across Canada.

From November 2-12, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall are to visit 12 Canadian cities and communities, touring the 2010 Olympic Village in Vancouver and meeting with opposition leader Michael Ignatieff.

But the highlight of the trip for Camilla is expected to be a tour of Dundurn Castle in Hamilton, Ontario, built in 1835 for her great-great-great-grand-father and former prime minister of the united Province of Canada, Sir Alan MacNab.

“For my wife, it is both figuratively and literally true that Canada is in her blood since she has the good fortune to be a great, great, great granddaughter of the prime minister of the united Province of Canada, Sir Alan MacNab who lived in Hamilton, Ontario,” said Prince Charles.

“We are both eagerly looking forward to discovering those family roots and of seeing her forbears’ home in a few day’s time.”

Brown forced to repay cleaning and gardening bills

Euronews-Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown has returned to parliament after the summer recess to face a personal expenses re-payment bill of around 12 thousand euros.

He is said to have over claimed on cleaning and gardening costs.

He is one of dozens of MPs who have received letters from Thomas Legg – the man appointed by Brown to rewrite the spending rules in an effort to quell public outrage over alleged misuse of tax payers’ money.

The Conservative opposition leader, David Cameron is also facing questions.
“Everyone should respond to these letters, respond to these inquiries being made and of course, at the end of this process, then everyone will have to comply with what the authorities are asking,” said Cameron.

Details of MPs claims which were leaked to a newspaper earlier this year revealed how numerous politicians made in appropriate demands.

Although most of the claims were made according to the rules at the time, UK voter anger over what they saw as apparent greed has forced MPs to show contrition and pay up or face further investigation.

Beatles Masters Degree course offered in Liverpool

They are arguably the biggest band in the history of popular music and now you can study how the Beatles took the world by storm!

euronews channel-The Fab Four’s hometown of Liverpool is proud of John, Paul, George and Ringo. And, at Liverpool Hope University, a Masters degree on the Beatle’s music and influence is being hailed as the first of its kind in the world.

“I, to my knowledge, am the first person coming over from Canada to take this,” said Mary-Lu Zahalan, who is on the MA course.

Fellow student George Burton from Scotland plays and sings in a 1960’s inspired band. He believes an academic look into the Beatles phenomenon was “probably long overdue.”

Pop music in general and its effects on society since the sixties are also on the syllabus but mastering the Merseyside moptops’ magic is, of course, the main attraction.

More Britons travel to Somalia for ‘jihad’: report

Intelligence chiefs have warned British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government that Somalia is the next challenge in efforts to stem Islamic terrorism, a report said Sunday.

The officials have warned that the number of young Britons travelling to Somalia to fight in the war-torn country or take part in “terror training camps” is rising, the Independent on Sunday said, citing unnamed sources.

In particular, they are concerned about the number of people with no direct family connection to Somalia who are travelling there.

The number travelling there every year has more than quadrupled to at least 100 since 2004, according to the newspaper.

“I have seen figures that are not in the public domain that suggest there is an increasing flow of young Britons into Somalia,” said opposition Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, chairman of the counter-terrorism subcommittee.

“There is now a mixture of British people, from numerous backgrounds, who are heading out there and that is causing great concern.”

The Shebab, an Al-Qaeda inspired movement, is spearheading a three-month-old offensive to topple Somalia’s President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and has imposed strict Sharia law in areas under its control.

The US has expressed fear that the Shebab would turn Somalia into an extremist haven similar to the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan — which has been a top priority for the Barack Obama administration.

Tory ‘rations’ MP Duncan demoted

Alan Duncan, the senior Conservative secretly filmed complaining that MPs were expected to live on “rations”, has been demoted from the shadow cabinet.

He goes from being shadow leader of the Commons to shadow prisons minister.

Mr Duncan, who was responsible for the Tories’ position on MPs’ expenses, said it was a “sensible decision” and he was “very happy” to do a new job.

The Rutland and Melton MP agreed to leave the shadow cabinet after a meeting with Tory leader David Cameron.

British evacuees remember the war

With war imminent, Britain decided to evacuate thousands of children from major cities to the safety of the countryside. Amidst the chaos 70 years ago, simple name tags were their only link with home. All these years later, survivors gathered at St Paul’s Cathedral in London to relive that emotional time.

“There was a real fear that one was never going to go home, because time is elastic and the younger you are the slower it passes,” said one evacuee, the former television newsreader Michael Aspel. “I remember asking my Uncle Cyril, you know, how long have I been here? thinking he would say three or four years, but he said oh, about six weeks now.”

The mass evacuation was code-named Operation Pied Piper, and in just four days three and a half million mostly children were shipped off to a safer life. Some of the children had never been out of the city, some thought they would never see their homes and parents again.