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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 June 2006, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
MoD investigating Iraq shooting
Claims that British troops killed a 13-year-old Iraqi boy after firing at an angry crowd are being investigated by the Ministry of Defence.

The soldiers, part of the Maysan battle group, were in an area just south of Amara in south-east Iraq.

More than 100 Iraqis allegedly hurled stones at the troops, who reportedly responded with baton rounds.

Two teenage boys - a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old - were hit during the clash, at 1600 BST on Wednesday.

According to local media reports a 13-year-old boy was also hit and killed.

Crowd gathered

An MoD spokesman said the investigation into the alleged death was "top priority".

He said: "The Maysan battle group put a cordon around an improvised explosive device in Maysan.

"The purpose of this cordon was to protect civilians while the suspicious device was dealt with.

"A crowd of about 100 people gathered, some of whom began stoning the troops.

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
Specific instructions on how to deal with hostile situations
A superior officer has to give the order to engage an enemy
Only exception is when a soldier, sailor or airman believes their life to be at risk
Source: Ministry of Defence

"In order to protect themselves and to maintain the cordon, seven baton rounds were fired."

The spokesman also said the British troops on the ground reported that two teenage boys had been hit.

He said: "We are aware of reports that a 13-year-old has been killed.

"We do not have any information to shed light on this matter and we are still investigating."

Self-defence

The MoD said military personnel are given specific instructions on how to deal with hostile situations and must wait for guidance from a commanding officer if they wish to engage with an enemy.

A spokesman said: "Rules of engagement run through the entire military chain of command.

"At each stage you need a higher level of command to give an order before you can advance to the next stage, such as firing directly at a crowd.

"They're the way our political masters control the level of effort and armament that the armed forces use.

"And they are always aimed at the absolute minimum level of force that is needed.

"Sometimes simply training a weapon on a group of lads throwing stones will be enough to make them run away.

"But there is always the inherent right of self-defence. That's the judgement that a soldier has to make if they think their life is threatened.

"Then they have the right to defend themselves."



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