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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 May, 2003, 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK
Colonel denies war allegations
Lt Col Tim Collins: Commanding Officer
Lt Col Tim Collins: Commanding Officer is being investigated
A British Army officer has denied he broke any rules of conduct during the Iraqi conflict.

Colonel Tim Collins, who won wide praise for a rousing speech to his troops on the eve of the fighting, spoke out after it emerged he is being investigated by the Ministry of Defence.

The allegations against the commander, who was a Lieutenant Colonel with the 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish Regiment but has since been promoted, are understood to involve the treatment of Iraqi civilians and prisoners of war.

An MoD spokesman said: "We can confirm an investigation is being conducted into allegations surrounding a British officer who served in Iraq.

"We cannot comment further because of the risk of compromising the investigation."

I saw him acting only ever in the highest traditions of the British army that he asked his men to act in
Sarah Oliver
Journalist

It is understood the complaints against Colonel Collins were made by an American military officer and are thought to include alleged abuse of captured Iraqis.

However, the Northern Ireland-born commander has strenuously denied breaking any rules of conduct in wartime.

"I'm astonished. I am confident my good name will be restored," he told the Daily Mirror.

He said he had "no idea how [the allegations] came about".

On Wednesday, Colonel Collins told the BBC he was very confident his reputation would be upheld.

He said while no complaint had formally been made against him, he was very confident any investigation would make it clear he had always acted within the highest traditions of the service.

'Humane'

British newspapers focused on the allegations on Thursday, with both the Daily Star and Daily Express identifying the Americans involved.

"What a way to treat a hero" laments the Daily Mail's front page, while the Sun says that, at worst, his conduct in Iraq was no worse than bullying.

The Sun says Col Collins was "shopped" - as the paper puts it - by a US major who disliked his robust style.

Friends of the colonel told the Daily Express that he was the victim of a dirty tricks campaign by the Americans.

The Mail on Sunday journalist, Sarah Oliver, who was with the regiment during the conflict, has said she was surprised by the allegations.

"I saw him acting only ever in the highest traditions of the British army that he asked his men to act in."

Prince Charles described the officer's address to his troops on the eve of the Iraq war as "stirring, civilised and humane".

The prince was writing in a deeply personal letter to the commander, who he said impressed many people with his heartfelt speech to the troops.

Lieutenant Colonel Collins told his men: "If you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory."

Prince Charles commended him on displaying "the highest traditions of military leadership".

Southern Iraq

Earlier this month, troops from the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR) were the first infantry unit to return to the UK from active service.

The 150 soldiers were greeted by friends and family at their headquarters in Canterbury.

During the campaign, Lieutenant Colonel Collins said a revenge attack on his troops had been planned by members of Saddam Hussein's ruling party in southern Iraq.

He said members of the Baath Party had sanctioned the execution of one or more men belonging to the Royal Irish Regiment as reprisal for its invasion of the area.

The Royal Irish soldiers took control of a vast area of southern Iraq, stretching across 4,500 square kilometres.

They patrolled and secured the zone and were specially trained to clear areas that were booby-trapped, mined and a danger to the local population.

They also seized major stocks of weapons and ammunition.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Paul Adams
"Army investigators will decide whether Tim Collins should face charges"




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