Page last updated at 14:49 GMT, Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Army officer arrested over 'leak'

Helicopter in Afghanistan (file pic)
If charged, the officer will be tried at the Old Bailey in London

A senior British army officer has been arrested in Afghanistan for allegedly leaking official secrets, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

The Sun newspaper named the suspect as Lt Col Owen McNally, 48.

It reported that he was accused of passing civilian casualty figures to a female human rights campaigner.

An MoD statement said: "We can confirm that a British army officer has been arrested in Afghanistan on suspicion of breaching the Official Secrets Act."

The statement added that he would be returned to the UK for questioning, and his case had been referred to the Metropolitan Police.

High-ranking

According to the newspaper, Col McNally had access to the data while working for Nato's International Security Assistance Force, which runs military operations in Afghanistan.

In 2008, campaign group Human Rights Watch said civilian deaths in Afghanistan from US and Nato air strikes had almost tripled to at least 1,633 between 2006 and 2007. It said it used "the most conservative figures available".

If charged, the officer will face trial at the Old Bailey in London and face a maximum sentence of 14 years if convicted.

Col McNally joined the Army in 1977 as a private, was commissioned as an officer in 1995 and is said to be one of the service's most high-ranking former non-commissioned officers.

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