The troops who sparked furore over the weekend by releasing photos apparently showing UK servicemen abusing an Iraqi prisoner have stood by their account.
They also claim hundreds of photographs have been taken of British soldiers mistreating Iraqi civilians.
Troops serving in southern Iraq have been swapping the pictures among themselves, the unnamed soldiers from the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment told the Daily Mirror.
Doubts were cast yesterday on the authenticity of the photos, published in the newspaper, which appeared to show the hooded man being struck with a rifle butt, urinated on and having a gun held to his head.
Sources close to the regiment claimed the rifle, hats and truck seen in the pictures did not match those issued to men in Iraq, and queried why there was no sign of sweat, dirt or injuries on the body of the victim of the alleged assault.
The BBC reported claims that key discrepancies in the pictures indicated that they could be fakes.
Conservative defence spokesman Nicholas Soames queried the Mirror’s decision to print the photographs yesterday, warning that there was a “question mark” over whether or not they were genuine.
But the soldiers who made the pictures public told the Mirror: “We stand by every single word of our story.
“This happened. It is not a hoax and the Army knows a lot more has happened.”
They also gave in-depth explanations about some of the concerns raised about the details in the photographs.
Responding to suspicions that the man’s T-shirt was too clean and not of a type worn in Iraq, the pair said they witnessed dozens of Iraqis wearing such T-shirts and that an Arab dress he was wearing over the T-shirt was ripped off during his arrest.
Claims that QLR troops rarely wore floppy jungle hats were also denied by the soldiers who said they used them “all the time” as berets were “too hot” and helmets “cumbersome”.
The Royal Military Police is carrying out an urgent inquiry into claims that the man was subjected to an eight-hour ordeal after being picked up in Iraq for suspected theft last year.
It was claimed that he had his jaw broken and teeth smashed before being dumped from a moving vehicle.
The soldiers detail other alleged incidents of brutality towards local people, including a baton attack which left a prisoner with a compound fracture to his arm.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one of the soldiers said: “Maybe the officers don’t know what is going on – but everybody else does. I have seen literally hundreds of pictures.”
Many of the pictures were destroyed last September when the soldiers’ luggage was searched as they left Iraq, they said.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the authorities were not aware of other photos of prisoners being mistreated or of a culture of trading pictures.
“If people have got evidence of such activity, then they should bring it to the attention of the Army authorities. We won’t stand for activity like that,” he said.
Mirror editor Piers Morgan defending the decision to publish the photos. He said: “There was clearly a small rogue element of soldiers who committed totally unacceptable acts against Iraqi civilians. Acts which have made our battle to win the hearts and minds of this country’s people so much more difficult.
“The Daily Mirror makes no apology for exposing this outrageous and unlawful behaviour, which has been common knowledge among disgusted British servicemen in Basra for many months.
“Nor do we believe there is any reason to think that these photographs have been faked in any way at all given the powerful testimony we have received.
“These two soldiers felt compelled to expose what went on because they believed it was fundamentally wrong and that it would inevitably be reported at some stage.”
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the accusations were being taken very seriously, not only by the authorities, but by officers and men in the Army.
He told BBC1’s Breakfast with Frost: “I can’t comment on the detail of the investigation, except to say that that the allegations are terrible and they will be investigated.”
Asked whether the allegations could eventually lead to compensation claims, he said: “We will accept whatever obligations there are upon us.”