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Last Updated: Monday, 17 October 2005, 19:15 GMT 20:15 UK
Iraq Paras 'allowed to use force'
Military court documents
The alleged attack took place after the "formal cessation" of the war
Seven UK soldiers accused of killing a civilian after the Iraq conflict had been allowed to use "lethal force" if threatened, a court martial has heard.

Normal military rules of engagement remained in existence at the time, their platoon commander told the hearing in Colchester, Essex.

An 18-year-old man is alleged to have died after an attack on a group of civilians in al-Ferkah in May 2003.

The Parachute Regiment soldiers deny murder and violent disorder.

Prosecutors claim the 3rd Battalion soldiers used rifle butts, helmets and fists in an "unprovoked" assault, which resulted in the death of Nadhem Abdullah.

Radio contact

Under military rules of engagement soldiers were permitted to defend themselves if they deemed it necessary, the commander, Captain Andrew Blackmore, told the court martial.

He said threats from insurgents or anti-coalition forces could result in a need to use "lethal force".

The alleged attack took place three weeks after the "formal cessation" of the war, the court martial heard.

There was no clear designated date when my men turned off one switch from war fighting to counter insurgency and peace support
Captain Andrew Blackmore

But Captain Blakemore said: "The rules of engagement didn't really change from the start.

"There was no clear designated date when my men turned off one switch from war fighting to counter insurgency and peace support."

Captain Blackmore said he had been in radio contact with the soldiers.

He had a conversation about a vehicle avoiding a checkpoint and another about a "slight issue with some of the people" inside a vehicle.

He said the soldiers seemed "slightly excited" when they returned to their base and were questioned.

But they said nothing had happened.

"For me there was no more I could do," he added. "I asked them man to man 'did anything happen out of the ordinary'?"

Corporal Scott Evans, 32, and Privates Billy Nerney, 24, Samuel May, 25, Morne Vosloo, 26, Daniel Harding, 25, Roberto Di-Gregorio, 24, and Scott Jackson, 26, all deny the charges.

The trial continues on Tuesday.


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