British Troops Condemned for Teenager's Drowning in Iraq War

Iraqi protester
An Iraqi protester throws stones at British soldiers during clashes in the city of Basra, Iraq, on September 19, 2005. British forces remained in Iraq between 2003 and 2009. ESSAM AL-SUDANI/AFP/Getty Images

A judge-led report into fatalities in the Iraq war has condemned four British soldiers who allegedly forced an Iraqi teenager into a canal and let him drown.

The report by the Iraq Fatality Investigations, led by former High Court judge Sir George Newman, investigated the death of Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali, who was 15 when he died in Basra, southeast Iraq, in May 2003.

According to the report, Ahmed was one of four suspected looters detained after British soldiers were called to an industrial compound. The four were forced to roll around in stagnant water before being driven by the soldiers to the Shatt-Al Basra canal and forced to enter the water.

One of the other detainees, Ayad Salim Hanoon, said the four were forced into the canal at "gunpoint" and that the soldiers threw stones to force them into deeper water, although the latter claim could not be established as true and Hanoon's testimony has been subject to "extensive criticism," according to the report.

The report stated that Ahmed should have been rescued when he began "floundering" in the water and that his death could have been avoided but for the "manifest failure" of the soldiers to take action.

The four soldiers involved were granted anonymity in the report. They were acquitted of manslaughter at a court martial in 2006. The Iraq Fatality Investigations were established in 2013 to examine a small number of Iraqi deaths involving British troops.

British troops joined the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 in order to depose then- Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, and U.K. forces were stationed in the country until 2009. More than 200 British service personnel and civilians died in the war, while estimates of Iraqi casualties vary between 90,000 and 600,000.

An inquiry into the U.K.'s participation in the Iraq War led by Sir John Chilcot found that the British government failed to exhaust all peaceful options before taking military action and that the invasion "was not a last resort."