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Bosnian boy shot dead in France

Nice (Reuter) - A seven-year-old Bosnian boy was killed yesterday when a French border guard fired a shotgun at a convoy of refugees from former Yugoslavia trying to speed around a road-block. Forty-three Bosnian refugees, including 19 children, were in police custody after the incident near the French frontier town of Sospel bordering Italy, 10 miles north of the Mediterranean coast, police said.

Prosecutors from nearby Nice opened an investigation, questioning the guard and the refugees, as well as a second guard present when shots were fired. The guard had acknowledged firing at the refugees but said he did so because he felt threatened. "He would not have fired had he not felt threatened," Prefect Philippe Marland told a news conference.

The two guards had set up their road-block after a tip that a group was attempting to enter France illegally by a little-travelled mountain road from Italy. The convoy of four cars and two trailers slowed down as it approached the barrier but then accelerated and tried to drive around it.

After two of the cars had passed, one of the guards fired three shots at the other vehicles with his pump-action shotgun. One struck the boy squarely in the chest. Mr Marland said he would not disclose the name of the guard who had fired. "He is a father of three children - including one who is eight years old - and has been devastated by this drama."

The dead boy's family were granted temporary residence while the remaining refugees would either remain in custody or be expelled, Mr Marland said.