Iraqis cleared of killing British soldiers

A COURT has cleared two Iraqi men accused of taking part in the murder of six British soldiers, saying there was no eyewitnesses to link the men to the killings.

The case has been closely followed in Britain, which was the second-largest military contingent in the US-led invasion and once had 46,000 troops in Iraq.

Chief Justice Baleagh Hamdi Hikmat dropped the charges after no first-hand testimony on the 2003 killings was presented in Baghdad’s Central Criminal Court.

The three-judge panel questioned nine people – mostly Iraqi police – but none said they saw the killings of the Royal Military Police officers in southern Iraq.

One of those questioned, however, said he saw one defendant carrying the weapon of a dead British soldier. The court said it will pursue charges on the theft, but the case in the slayings was dropped.

British officials say a gang of Iraqis in June 2003 chased the Royal Military Police soldiers – known as Red Caps – into a police station, where they were shot.

The soldiers had been assigned to train local police in the town of Al Majar al-Kabir, about 195 kilometres north of Basra, in the months after fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. A British inquest in 2006 concluded the soldiers had been given substandard equipment, including inadequate radio communications.

Eight Iraqis were arrested earlier this year in connection with the slayings, but charges were dropped against all but two men.

Last year, British forces formally handed over control of their last outposts to the Iraqi military. At least 179 British personnel were killed in Iraq.

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