The occupying forces have now come under renewed fire for their treatment of ordinary Iraqis as shown in the pictures published today by Aljazeera.net.

CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is conducting an investigation and seeking advice before taking further action.

"This kind of image increases resentment of American troops in Iraq and can also play a major part in demoralising troops who are having to tie up small children.

"We are seeking to raise this issue further in the appropriate arena," said Washington CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper.

A spokesman for the London-based Islamic Observation Centre said the pictures showed a "complete disregard for the human rights of the Iraqi people".

He added: "A normal human being should be repulsed by the very idea of tying up children.

Carrying explosives

"You have to question the mental state of soldiers who are being forced to do this."

A child, aged around six, watches
nervously as a US soldier ties her

The IOC recently supplied pictures to Aljazeera.net showing US soldiers frisking a four-year-old boy in an Afghan village in Paktika as part of a military operation.

A senior officer justified the action at the time saying the child could have been carrying explosives. He added the security of US soldiers came first before any hearts and minds operation.

Those particular pictures provoked a huge, mixed response from Aljazeera users who inundated the website with feedback expressing concern.

This latest series of pictures was sent to US military headquarters Centcom in Florida for a comment. Major David Farlow warned Aljazeera.net not to publish the pictures on this site.

"It would be irresponsible. I can't second guess what has happened here without knowing all the facts but US forces operating in Iraq have to use the appropriate level of restraint to the mission.

"US soldiers will use minimum forces wherever possible," he added.

However John Rees, head of the British Stop The War Coalition, condemned the behaviour of the occupying forces.

Colonial occupiers

"This kind of behaviour produced a response which forced the British out of India and will undoubtedly force the British and Americans out of Iraq.

This picture shows a US soldier
frisking a four-year-old Afghan

"The American and British forces in Iraq are showing all the worst traits of colonial occupying forces throughout history."

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence in London said: "There are a range of options available to the commander on the ground based on the information received. Restraint depends on the situation."

However a senior military source said: "This sort of action would be highly unusual for British troops and would have to be authorised at the highest level.

"We just don't do things like that. We are working very closely with Iraqi people on the ground in Basra and prioritise in winning hearts and minds.

"We made a dreadful error earlier on in the campaign and lost some military police as a result. It was a tragedy which we have learned from and do not want to repeat."