More than 1,000 British soldiers who served in Iraq may face prosecution for crimes including murder following a probe into allegations of torture and unlawful killing, the head an MoD investigations unit has said.
Mark Warwick, head of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat), said there were "lots of significant cases" and discussions would be held further down the line over whether they met the war crimes threshold.
British forces left Iraq in 2009 but lawyers continue to refer cases to the unit for investigation. The Government established the special review team after allegations of murder, abuse and torture during the six-year mission period.
Mr Warwick, told the Independent newspaper:
There are serious allegations that we are investigating across the whole range of Ihat investigations, which incorporates homicide, where I feel there is significant evidence to be obtained to put a strong case before the Service Prosecuting Authority to prosecute and charge. Over the next 12 to 18 months, we will review all the caseload to better understand the picture and then I think we can say whether 2019 seems realistic.
The multimillion-pound inquiry is investigating claims involving 1,515 possible victims by September, of whom 280 are alleged to have been unlawfully killed.
Mr Warwick cited the case of Iraqi hotel receptionist Baha Mousa who died after being interrogated and abused by British soldiers more than a decade ago. It remains "a live criminal investigation".
He added: "There are lots of significant cases that we are investigating and at the appropriate time it will be a matter for us to discuss with the SPA (Service Prosecuting Authority) whether they meet the war-crimes threshold, but there are certainly serious allegations currently being investigated."
Mr Warwick said not all allegations will lead to an investigation but explained that the credibility of every allegation is examined by the team.
Human Rights campaigners have pushed for cases to be resolved faster. The unit's budget of £57.2 million, which runs until the end of 2019 - 16 years after the 2003 invasion began.
Carla Ferstman, director of the human rights charity Redress, told the newspaper: "Things seem to still be moving at a snail's pace. We call upon the Government to ensure Ihat can, and does, do what it was set up to do, and to do it now. This cannot be a whitewash."