French guards investigated over shooting of Afghan


Four security guards were placed under judicial investigation today in connection with the shooting of a teenage Afghan refugee last week near the Channel Tunnel, French judicial officials said.

The four, who appeared before an investigating magistrate in the northern town of Boulogne-Sur-Mer, face charges of "willful violence with the use of a weapon" for the nonfatal shooting on Tuesday.

The guards, aged between 23 and 30, were placed under judicial investigation -the first step before formal charges - and are barred from returning to their jobs.

One of the guards - who all work for the private security firm SSIM contracted by French rail company SNCF at the Coquelles terminal, near Calais - was also placed in custody.

The 25-year-old admitted yesterday to opening fire as a group of asylum seekers tried to enter an off-limits building in order to find a way to sneak through the tunnel and into Britain.

An 18-year-old Afghan took a bullet in the leg.

The guard, who fired a total of three times, said he "did not see" the immigrants. Investigators - who believe the shooting was meant to scare the asylum seekers - however, have said the group was less than 40 metres away.

"He clearly didn't mean to kill, but probably just to scare them," an investigator told AFP.

The guard said he used his own firearm, which he had brought to work that day "for the first time." Employees of the security firm are not equipped with guns.

The incident, which followed the death of another refugee in a road accident a day earlier, fed growing tensions at the overcrowded Sangatte refugee camp nearby, as local officials demanded help from Paris and London to stem the influx of asylum seekers.