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War crimes probe on UK hero

London, May 21 (Reuters): A senior British Army officer hailed for his inspirational leadership during the Iraq war is being formally investigated over alleged war crimes, the ministry of defence said today.

Lt Col Tim Collins, who headed the 600-strong Royal Irish Regiment in southern Iraq, has been accused of breaching the Geneva Conventions through ill-treatment of prisoners of war. “We can confirm that an investigation is being conducted into allegations that have been made against an officer who served in Iraq,” a spokesman said.

“We cannot comment further because of the risk of compromising the allegations.”

The ministry would not name the officer but a defence source confirmed that it was Collins, who has returned from Iraq to Britain. The origin of the complaints is not known and the ministry spokesman refused to say what they entailed.

But newspapers reported he was being accused of punching, kicking and threatening Iraqi prisoners of war and pistol-whipping one Iraqi civic leader.

Collins could not immediately be reached for contact but the Sun newspaper said he denied the allegations.

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