Nearly 200 Iraqi civilians have launched a High Court battle for a fully independent public inquiry into allegations British troops committed "terrifying acts of brutality" following the invasion of Iraq.

Two judges were yesterday told women, the elderly and children were among victims as soldiers went in search of individuals to detain and interrogate.

A judge-led inquiry is being sought into accusations British interrogators were guilty of unlawful killings as well as torture in UK-controlled detention facilities from 2003 to 2009.

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Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is investigating the claims of human rights violations through the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT).

But Public Interest Lawyers, representing 192 Iraqis, wants the High Court to rule the IHAT set-up is fatally flawed because its members include officers of the Royal Navy Police.

The hearing continues.