LONDON (Reuters) - The Daily Mirror newspaper stood by its report that British soldiers beat an Iraqi detainee and published new allegations on Monday about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
A number of political and media commentators have questioned the integrity of five black and white photographs published in the newspaper on Saturday, apparently showing British soldiers abusing a hooded Iraqi detainee arrested for stealing.
"Despite the whispering campaign and dodgy briefings that went on yesterday, the Daily Mirror has no doubt that the allegations made by the two soldiers who came to us were true," the newspaper said in an editorial on Monday.
The Mirror's pictures on Saturday, which it said came from two soldiers in the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, showed soldiers apparently kicking, stamping and urinating on a hooded Iraqi. It said they were taken during an eight-hour beating in Basra, southern Iraq, where Britain has around 7,500 troops.
The images were published days after pictures of U.S. troops abusing Iraqi prisoners provoked anger around the world.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on Sunday that a high-level investigation was under way and described the allegations as "terrible," echoing the views of Prime Minister Tony Blair and Britain's top general, Sir Mike Jackson.
"If proven the perpetrators are not fit to wear the queen's uniform," said Jackson.
Investigators from the Royal Military Police have flown to Cyprus to interview soldiers from the regiment.
"We are letting the military police get on with their inquiry," a Defense Ministry spokesman said after the Mirror published its new allegations, including one that a baton blow on a prisoner's arm caused a compound fracture.
The Mirror said one of the unnamed soldiers who went to the paper with the allegations of abuse said he knew of colleagues who had boasted of what would be classed as war crimes.
"Some lads were telling of how they made an Iraqi swim across a river and were taking pot shots at him," the soldier was quoted as saying.
The Mirror also published responses to claims that its pictures were fakes. Questions had been raised about the type of rifle seen in the photographs, the soldiers' clothing, the lack of visible injuries on the prisoner and the truck in which the beating was alleged to have taken place.
"The two squaddies admit they cannot answer questions regarding minor details in the photos which were taken months ago," said the newspaper, which campaigned against the government's decision to go to war in Iraq.
Blair is considering sending more troops to Iraq to plug the hole left by the withdrawal of the Spanish contingent, though many Britons remain skeptical about his staunch support for U.S. policy in Iraq.