Monday, January 05, 2004

Blair in Basra; Death in British custody: "British forces will remain in Iraq until at least 2006, Tony Blair signalled yesterday as he staged a lightning trip to Basra to thank troops working for 'a noble and a good cause' in the wake of the removal of Saddam Hussein... Prime Minister [Blair] told servicemen and women that their help in transforming a dictatorship into a prosperous democracy meant they were the "new pioneers of 21st century soldiering"... Mr Blair showed genuine emotion as he thanked troops "from the bottom of my heart", a catch in his voice unmistakeable."

Meanwhile, "Three days later, I was looking at my son's body," the colonel says, sitting on the concrete floor of his slum house in Basra. "The British came to say he had 'died in custody'. His nose was broken, there was blood above his mouth and I could see the bruising of his ribs and thighs. The skin was ripped off his wrists where the handcuffs had been... One of Baha's colleagues, Kifah Taha, suffered acute renal failure after being kicked in the kidneys; a "wound assessment" by Frimley Park Hospital in Britain states bluntly that he suffered "generalised bruising following repeated incidents of assault".

"When Col Mousa and another of his sons, Alaa, visited Kifah Taha in a Basra hospital immediately after his release to seek news of Baha, they found the wounded man - in Alaa's words - "only half a human, with terrible bruises from kicking on his ribs and abdomen. He could hardly speak."

"We were put in a big room with our hands tied and with bags over our heads. But I could see through some holes in my hood. Soldiers would come in - ordinary soldiers, not officers, mostly with their heads shaved but in uniform -- and they would kick us, picking on one after the other. They were kick-boxing us in the chest and between the legs and in the back. We were crying and screaming. They set on Baha especially, and he kept crying that he couldn't breathe in the hood. He kept asking them to take the bag off and said that he was suffocating. But they laughed at him and kicked him more. One of them said: 'Stop screaming and you'll be able to breathe more easily.' Baha was so scared. Then they increased the kicking on him and he collapsed on the floor. None of us could stand or sit because it was too painful."

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