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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 May, 2003, 22:39 GMT 23:39 UK
UK soldier 'accidentally shoots boy'
Boy carries water in Basra
Life is still hard in Basra
A British soldier in southern Iraq has killed a young boy in what appears to have been an accidental shooting.

The 14-year-old boy died after being hit at close range near an army barracks.

Ali Salim was playing near a school used to house soldiers of the Queen's Dragoon Guards in a suburb of Basra.

It is not yet clear how he came to be shot, but a doctor at Basra's teaching hospital who treated him told the BBC he had suffered a single bullet wound to the abdomen.

He said the weapon had been fired from very close range.

A friend of the 14-year-old, who said he had seen the shooting, said Ali was joking and talking with a soldier guarding the barracks when the soldier opened fire without provocation.

Sensitive time

But other eyewitnesses said the boy appeared to have made a grab for the soldier's rifle and the weapon was discharged, probably accidentally.

Ali died a few hours later in hospital. A spokesman for the British Army said the Royal Military Police were investigating the incident.

The boy's death comes at a sensitive time for coalition forces.

US soldiers in Falluja killed 15 people after two demonstrations recently, saying protesters had opened fire on them.

They also killed a similar number in Mosul in similar circumstances.

The incidents have exacerbated anti-American sentiment in the areas and prompted demonstrations.

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