The Sunday Telegraph said the allegations contained in secret military documents obtained by it include two cases in which soldiers caused Iraqi civilians to drown.

The allegations also include an incident that could lead to the first member of the elite Special Air Service (SAS) being charged with the murder of an Iraqi civilian.

The leaked Ministry of Defence documents show that almost three times as many soldiers face charges than had been admitted by the ministry.

Wider inquiry

The disclosure follows the announcement on Friday by the head of the army, General Sir Mike Jackson, of a wide-ranging inquiry into allegations of abuse by British soldiers serving in Iraq.

He was speaking after the sentencing of three soldiers at a court martial in Germany for the abuse of Iraqi detainees.

Up to three times as many troops
face charges than was admitted

Details of the investigation involving the SAS soldier are contained in documents marked "Restricted - Investigations Not For Disclosure. Ministerial Update of Service Police Investigations".

The Iraqi civilian was named as GGHD al-Rumi, who was shot dead by Special Force in Basra on 1 January last year and the inquiry was passed to Special Investigations Branch for completion.

"Final report being compiled. One soldier to be reported," the document quoted in The Sunday Telegraph said.

It said the SAS soldiers' commanding officer and the director Special Forces were resisting charges being brought as they believed that no crime had been committed and that a prosecution could damage morale.

Alleged drownings

The document also details two cases of the alleged drownings of Iraqi civilians by British troops.

One involves the alleged murder of 16-year-old Ahmad Jabir Karim who was arrested by three Irish Guards on 8 May last year.

From the outset, British soldiers
have been deployed in the south

In another similar incident, an officer and two soldiers from 32 Engineer Regiment were reported to be facing a joint manslaughter charge over the death of a sheep herder.

A ministry spokesman said he could not comment on individual cases, but admitted that four more cases involving 18 soldiers serving in Iraq, had been directed for trial.

They include seven members of the Parachute Regiment accused of the fatal beating of an 18-year-old Iraqi at a roadside in May 2003.

Another nine cases involving about 30 soldiers were being considered by the Army Prosecuting Authority. They involved various offences including shootings and road traffic accidents.