'Hanan's killing has become a symbol of a flawed occupation'

Hanan Saleh Matrud was playing with her friends in a narrow alley which ran beside her house on 21 August last year when the armoured personnel carrier drew up, some 50 metres away.

Hanan Saleh Matrud was playing with her friends in a narrow alley which ran beside her house on 21 August last year when the armoured personnel carrier drew up, some 50 metres away.

A unit of troops from the King's Regiment then spilled out of the vehicle. Stories differ about what happened next. The troops insist they came under attack from stone-throwing mobs, and a warning shot was fired. Locals say the only crowds were playing kids, who had been coaxed into the open by the soldiers' offers of chocolate.

What is certain is that Hanan, a shy eight-year-old, fell after the shot was fired - her abdomen slashed open by a ricocheting bullet.

Her uncle, Faleh, ran out of their one-storey home and carried his niece to the British troops. She was rushed to a Czech-run military hospital. She died, despite a six-hour operation. That sudden end to a short life is now a symbol, for human rights activists at Amnesty International and many MPs, of a flawed and ill-equipped occupation by Britain, where civilian casualties are written off as the unfortunate consequences of a necessary war.

Until the case was exposed by Amnesty in May, the Ministry of Defence did not appear to know it had happened or that the Army had admitted a British bullet "possibly" killed her. Nor did they know her grieving family was given $700 (£390) by Army commanders as a form of "blood money" - an officially sanctioned tactic intended to placate furious relatives without admitting to guilt.

For Hanan, who left behind a school report card, a framed portrait and a death certificate, $700 was seen by the Army as sufficient compensation.

In the slums of Karmat Ali, a northern suburb of Basra, the incident caused outrage. Her father, Saleh Matrud, a taxi driver, insists the shooting was unprovoked.

The soldiers "stopped at the end of the alley and they started giving chocolates to the children", he said earlier this year. "But Hanan is shy and she was afraid to go forwards so she stopped by a metal gate. At that moment a bullet came from the British and hit her in the stomach." The Army is adamant the unit had come under "heavy stone throwing from a number of mobs" - but admits no shots were fired at them.

After several visits by British military investigators, an officer wrote to the family in October and admitted to the "possibility" that her fatal wound was "sustained as a result of the warning shot".

For the MoD, the matter ended there. It claims the Army's Special Investigation Branch had met silence from locals. "In the absence of impartial witness evidence or forensic evidence to suggest a soldier had acted outside the rules of engagement, no crime was established," it states.

In May, after Amnesty's intervention, the Matruds submitted a formal claim for proper compensation - a claim now being assessed by MoD officials in London. SC

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Courtney Love has admitted using heroin while pregnant with Frances Bean Cobain, her daughter with Kurt Cobain
people
Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Extras
indybest
News
Joel Grey, now 82, won several awards for his role in Cabaret
people
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Sport
Harry Kane celebrates scoring the opening goal for Spurs
footballLive: All the latest transfer news as deadline day looms
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Secretary

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This major European Intellectual Propert...

Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher

£130 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher Jan 2015 - July...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - 9-12 Months

£14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Accounts Assistant is immedi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Communications Executive

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness