SERVING and ex-undercover cops have been left 'fearing for their lives' after their identities were mistakenly put on Facebook by in a police force blunder.

Photographs of officers serving with Avon and Somerset taken as recently as the 1990s were uploaded to the force's 'heritage and history' page on Facebook.

It included images from officers' warrant cards, with their police numbers visible, and in comments left on the pictures other police officers had posted their full names, reportedly uploaded by a volunteer archivist.

But the appearance of nostalgic snaps has provoked alarm from many former officers.

Some feared their lives could be put at risk and were said to be "scared for their safety."

The images have since been removed after a complaint was filed, but sparked fears of a data breach which could result in retired officers being targeted by criminals.

Nationally, a public inquiry into undercover policing - known as 'spycops' - is assessing whether covert officers who infiltrated more than 1,000 activist groups should be allowed anonymity.

It hit the headlines this week after beauty store Lush put up posters supporting activists who were seduced by undercover officers - some of whom they were in relationships for years - along with the motto 'paid to lie.' But Avon and Somerset appeared to have jeopardised the anonymity of its own retired officers, including some who had acted as witnesses in secret trials.

One former firearms officer said: "I have friends who worked undercover and on surveillance units for Avon and Somerset and some that still work there.

"Given the very dangerous nature of the work they did and still do, they are not on social media to help protect their identities, so they were very shocked and upset when these photographs started appearing on Facebook and were genuinely scared for their safety."

Some of the officers have left Avon and Somerset but gone on to work for other police forces, including the National Crime Agency.

In some cases, the photos, which were originally taken for the officers' warrant cards also included ranks, collar numbers and the names of individual officers, the Bristol Cable reports.

Another Facebook group, Avon and Somerset NARPO, which is administered by retired officers, posted images without permission.

A retired Special Branch Officer from the force, whose responsibilities included national security and intelligence, found his name and photograph had been published online.

He investigated violence linked to the Troubles, and was a secret witness at a major trial in the 1990s - which was said to have protected him from a contract on his life by the Provisional IRA.

A serving covert Detective Sergeant, who now works for the National Crime Agency but who formerly worked for Avon and Somerset, is said to complained of having his identity revealed, along with photographs.

Below the posts, colleagues reportedly posted his real name.

An Avon and Somerset Police spokesman said: "We're aware of a complaint about the publication of specific photos and information on the Avon and Somerset History and Heritage Facebook Group page.

"We're looking into the complaint and have already taken action by removing affected posts/photos.

"We've also amended the privacy settings as an additional security measure.

"As we're still looking into the detail of the complaint, we're unable to comment further at this time."