War hero faces crimes inquiry

LONDON MAY 22. A high-profile British army officer, whose rousing speech to his troops before the Iraq war was praised by Prince Charles and still hangs in the U.S. President, George W. Bush's Oval Office along with George Washington's first presidential address, is now being investigated for alleged war crimes.

Colonel Tim Collins, regarded as a war hero until a few weeks ago, fell from grace after he was accused of kicking and punching Iraqi prisoners of war, and intimidating civilians in breach of the army's rules of engagement. He was also alleged to have "pistol-whipped'' a civilian official and fired into the ground to frighten people when there was no danger to his men.

The allegations are reported to have been made by an unnamed American officer, who complained to his own commander, who then informed the British authorities. The Ministry of Defence confirmed that an investigation was being conducted into accusations "surrounding a British officer who served in Iraq''. Col. Collins shot into prominence after Prince Charles wrote him a personal letter, saying he was "profoundly moved'' by his war-eve speech to his troops in which he told them to be "magnanimous in victory''. The Prince praised him for his "extraordinarily stirring, civilised and humane words''.

The BBC was reported to be thinking of making a documentary on the cigar-smoking Colonel, and the U.S. President was so impressed that he got a copy of his speech for the Oval Office.

Described as a "colourful'' figure by his friends, Col. Collins has been in the news before for the alleged "bullying'' culture of his regiment.

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