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Page last updated at 08:27 GMT, Monday, 30 June 2008 09:27 UK

French shooting show injures 17

Troops outside parachute regiment barracks
It is not clear whether or not foul play was involved

A military show in southern France has left 17 people wounded, after real bullets were used instead of blanks.

The injured included five children. Four people, including one child, were said to have been seriously hurt - though three have now stabilised.

The incident occurred during a public demonstration of hostage-freeing techniques at a barracks in Aude.

The soldier who fired the shots has been detained - though an official said it was probably an accident.

It is not clear why the wrong ammunition was used in Sunday's demonstration.

But it was "99.9%" likely to be "an unintentional fault," Colonel Benoit Royal, head of the French army's information service, told the AFP news agency on Monday.

'No psychological problems'

However, Defence Minister Herve Morin said: "I cannot rule out anything because we don't know what might be going on in a man's head."

He said "an experienced soldier" should not be able to confuse blanks with real bullets.

"According to initial findings of the inquiry, the incident involved a soldier with a perfect record, who had participated in operations and had seven to eight years of experience," he said.

"There is nothing that would make one think he had behavioural or psychological problems," he added.

Reports from the scene say the hostage scenario had been acted out five times before a crowd at the Laperrine military barracks, near Carcassonne, when on the sixth take real bullets began flying through the air, and onlookers fell to the ground.

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Fifteen civilians were among the 17 injured.

Gilles Hulard, a doctor from Carcassonne's rescue service said: "The condition of patients injured the most seriously have stabilised, including that of a three-year-old child very seriously injured, who seems to be improving."

He said the worst injuries were sustained by a man shot in the chest, who was still in critical condition."

In a statement, French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed his horror at the incident and said he was urgently waiting for the results of an official investigation.

The president was planning to visit the injured in hospitals in Carcassonne and Toulouse later, his office said.




SEE ALSO
Country profile: France
05 Mar 08 |  Country profiles


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