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Belgium migrants: Girl dies after police chase van

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    File pic of Belgian police carImage copyright Getty Images
    Image caption Authorities will hold a post mortem examination to find out what led to the girl’s death (file pic)

    A two-year-old girl was found with fatal injuries after a van carrying 30 Kurdish migrants was chased by police for an hour in southern Belgium.

    Police say the girl died soon afterwards and have revealed that there was a scuffle and shots were fired.

    The chase began on the E42 motorway outside the town of Namur.

    The van drove west for several kilometres, evading police. Eventually it collided with another vehicle near Mons and the girl was found.

    It took 15 police cars and some 30 police to bring the drama to an end at around 03:00 (01:00 GMT) on Thursday.

    Belgian media have reported that the girl, who was with her mother, had been held out of a van window apparently to keep the police at a distance. Local prosecutors told the BBC they could not confirm the reports.

    When the van finally stopped police said people emerged from the vehicle and moved towards them. After a struggle, officials said that police fired shots but stressed the girl was not hit by gunfire.

    At least 30 people were inside the van, including children, they said. Police in France say people smugglers were involved in the drama, but that was not confirmed by local officials.

    Hours after the incident in the early hours of Thursday, a group of some 60 migrants reacted by blocking a motorway near Dunkirk, south of the Belgian border in France.

    Migrants staying at the nearby Grande-Synthe camp had known the girl who had died as she was part of a family who had been staying in the gym, said French police.

    Twenty people were detained and the migrants then returned to Grande-Synthe, where some were searched by French CRS riot police.

    Belgian authorities said a post mortem examination would take place to find out what had caused her death. It was not clear whether the driver had got away but a number of the passengers would be interviewed, they said.

    A police patrol had tried to stop the van because it was being driven in a strange manner. A police check then indicated it was carrying false number plates, reports said.

    A minister in the French-speaking Wallonia-Brussels government, André Flahaut, sent his condolences to the girl’s family. “The politics of chasing migrants is bound to end in drama,” he said on Twitter.

    A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

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