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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 June 2006, 17:04 GMT 18:04 UK
'No evidence' of shot Iraqi boy
Claims British troops killed an Iraqi boy after firing baton rounds at a crowd have proved unfounded, according to the Ministry of Defence.

Local media said the 13-year-old was hit and killed in a fracas between troops and locals just south of Amara in south-east Iraq on Wednesday.

But an MoD spokesman said troops had combed hospitals in the area and found no record of any child being admitted.

There was "no substantial evidence" to back up the claims, he said.

Stones thrown

The trouble started when the British soldiers, part of the Maysan battle group, were clearing an area around an improvised explosive device.

More than 100 Iraqis gathered at the scene and started hurling stones at the troops, who fired baton rounds in return.

British troops on the ground reported that two teenage boys - a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old - were hit during the clash, at 1600 BST.

The MoD spokesman 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.

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

Previous clashes

This incident is the latest in a number of growing confrontations between troops and Iraqi locals.

On May 7, a 200-strong angry mob gathered at the scene of a British helicopter crash in which five personnel - including the first servicewoman to die in action - were killed.

An Iraqi policeman at the scene claimed the Lynx helicopter had been shot down.

The incident triggered serious clashes between troops and locals who were armed with guns, stones, petrol bombs and blast bombs, which they hurled at British forces.

In May alone, nine British personnel were killed in action.

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

Self-defence

The MoD also said military personnel were 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."


SEE ALSO
MoD investigating Iraq shooting
08 Jun 06 |  Middle East



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