Wives and family members of soldiers fighting in Iraq have received telephone calls, believed to include death threats, from insurgents, according to military documents seen by The Sunday Telegraph.
The “nuisance” calls have been made with increasing frequency over the past few weeks after insurgents managed to obtain home numbers from soldiers’ mobile telephones.
The growing number of calls has led to an investigation by the Royal Military Police, which has issued a warning to all soldiers in Iraq to take great care when using mobile telephones to call home.
The extent of the problem emerged in a restricted Army document issued to soldiers of the London Regiment, a Territorial Army unit, which has soldiers from its ranks serving in Iraq.
The document warns soldiers preparing to take part in operations that insurgents in southern Iraq have managed to obtain the home telephone numbers of soldiers by using electronic intercept devices to hack into mobile phone systems.
It is understood that the threats range from claims that a husband or son is dead or will be killed fighting in Iraq, to verbal abuse. Many of those who have received calls say that they were made by people with a poor command of English or with a Middle Eastern accent.
The military document states that there have been “many instances in the last weeks of relatives and friends of personnel serving abroad on operations getting nuisance phone calls” from Iraq.
It adds: “Investigations indicate that the ‘callers’ of these nuisance calls have acquired the numbers from personnel using their own mobiles to phone. This is fairly easy using today’s technology. It makes no difference whether the mobile is of UK origin or sourced abroad.
The MoD is keen to establish the extent of these nuisance calls, to determine whether there is a pattern to them. All ranks are to be aware of the possibility of receiving nuisance calls if using mobiles to phone home.”
Since the start of the war in Iraq, a number of high profile soldiers are believed to have received death threats from opponents of the war.
Cpl Mark Byles, who won the Military Cross in 2004 after leading members of the 1st Bn of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment in a bayonet charge, received a death threat after his story appeared in the press. Abu Baker Mansha was later sentenced to eight years imprisonment for plotting to kill the soldier.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed that families of soldiers serving in Iraq had received “nuisance calls”, including people calling the homes of soldiers from Iraq then hanging up.
The spokesman said: “We would not describe this as sinister. We have no evidence of anyone receiving any death threats.”