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UK to hold public inquiry into alleged Iraq abuse

LONDON (AP) - Britain's defense ministry says it will formally order a public inquiry this week into the alleged abuse and killing of Iraqi civilians by British soldiers.

The ministry says Defense Secretary Bob Ainsworth will make a written statement to lawmakers Wednesday ordering a study into a battle near the southern Iraq town of Majar al-Kabir in May 2004

Lawyers allege British soldiers may have tortured and executed up to 20 Iraqis after the battle - the most serious allegations of abuse made against British forces.

The British military denies the accusations, and says the dead were insurgents killed in a gun battle after ambushing British troops.

Lawyers say they expected the inquiry to begin late next year. It will likely be led by a retired judge.

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