Bodies of insurgents killed in a battle in Iraq were not mutilated by British troops, nor were detainees mistreated, a public inquiry has heard.
On the first day of evidence from military witnesses, the Al-Sweady Inquiry was told that claims that Iraqis killed in the Battle of Danny Boy were mutilated were "baseless rumours", spread to discredit coalition forces.
The inquiry is examining claims, denied by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), that 20 or more Iraqis were unlawfully killed at Camp Abu Naji (CAN) near Majar-al-Kabir on May 14 and 15 2004, and detainees were ill-treated there and later at Shaibah Logistics Base.
Colonel Adam Griffiths told the inquiry he had not seen any evidence to suggest that bodies taken to CAN were mutilated, nor heard anything about detainees being mistreated.
Then the officer commanding B Company, 1st Battalion the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, on May 14 2004 he was leading a "rover group" returning from another camp called Condor, when it was ambushed by Iraqi insurgents.
Col Griffiths admitted an order to take bodies of dead Iraqis back to CAN was "highly unusual" but must have been for a good reason - it has been suggested it was given in a bid to identify an insurgent who may have been responsible for the murder of six Red Caps in Iraq the previous year.
But Col Griffiths said he did not, and had never, believed rumours that troops had mutilated bodies before they were handed back to relatives. In a statement to the inquiry, he said: "I did not believe any of our soldiers had mutilated a body and I did not see at the time, and have not seen since, any evidence to support this proposition.
"I thought then, and I still think now, that the rumours were baseless and caused by a combination of ignorance amongst the local population as to the traumatic injuries that can be suffered in combat and the misinformation spread by insurgents who wished to discredit the coaltiion forces."
Earlier, Col Griffiths told the inquiry he was not aware of any detainee or anyone else protesting about their treatment. He said the rumours of alleged mutilation of bodies was raised at a meeting on May 17.
"I do recall that there were rumours within the local population within 24 hours of the engagements on May 14, 2004 that coalition forces soldiers had mutilated the bodies of the insurgents killed and that these rumours had started once the families had collected the bodies," he said.