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Does Britain have its own Abu Ghraib?

LONDON, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Britain's Defense Ministry is investigating claims of prisoner abuse by British troops in Iraq in a scandal that could turn into a second Abu Ghraib.

The investigation was sparked by allegations brought forward by Phil Steiner, a lawyer representing a group of Iraqis who told him about the plight they endured at the hands of British troops.

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Shiner detailed 33 cases of alleged abuse, including rape and torture committed by male and female British troops stationed in Iraq. The London-based newspaper Independent broke the story over the weekend.

British Armed Forces Minister William Rammell said in a statement the claims were being taken seriously, adding that an official investigation would take place "without judgments being made prematurely."

Iraqis accuse troops of shocking abuse.

A young Iraqi claims he was raped by two male soldiers when he accidentally walked into a room where they were engaged in sexual intercourse.

British soldiers are also accused of piling bodies of Iraqi prisoners on top of each other and electrocuting and hitting them while taking photographs.

Female soldiers are accused of aiding in the abuse and also humiliating prisoners by exposing themselves in front of the men to humiliate them.

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The cases are reminiscent of the abuses that took place in the U.S. military prison in Abu Ghraib five years ago. Photos of the Abu Ghraib abuses sparked worldwide protests and severely damaged America's reputation in the Arab world.

The Independent quotes from a letter by Shiner that indicates British forces may have imitated their U.S. colleagues who have in the past relied on dubious methods in the so-called war on terror.

"Due to the wider access of information and disclosure in the United States, we do know that sexual humiliation was authorized as an aid to interrogation at the highest levels of the U.S. administration," the letter reads, according to the daily. "Given the history of the U.K.'s involvement in the development of these techniques alongside the U.S., it is deeply concerning that there appears to be strong similarities between instances of the use of sexual humiliation."

The lawyer added that many of the victims only decided to talk about what they had to endure after British forces left Iraq.

Meanwhile, authorities in London are hearing witnesses in an inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa, a 26-year-old hotel worker who died in British custody in 2003 after troops beat him. It later surfaced that he had sustained 93 different injuries.

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