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Refugee girl fatally shot during Belgian police chase

In this file photo taken on November 20, 2015, Belgian police officers and soldiers stand guard outside the Brussels Palace of Justice during the appearance before the council chamber of Mohammed Amri and Hamza Attou, arrested in connection with the November 13 attacks in Paris, in Brussels. (Photo by AFP)

Belgian prosecutors say a two-year-old Kurdish girl, who died after police chased a van carrying illegal refugees in southern Belgium, was found with a fatal “bullet” wound.

The police had fired shots in an attempt to stop the van, which was carrying 30 people of Kurdish origin, after a highway chase between Namur and Maisières, a suburb of the city of Mons.

The child, who was aboard the vehicle, succumbed to her injuries in the ambulance on her way to hospital.

"The autopsy determined that the cause of death was a bullet that entered the cheek," prosecutor Frederic Bariseau in Mons said Friday.

"I want to be careful that the bullet could be of police origin. We have to assess the evidence," he added.

Bariseau further said that an internal police investigation is underway to determine the circumstances of the girl's death.

The prosecutor's office initially reported on Thursday that the kid had "not died as a result of the police shooting".

Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon speaks during a press conference on the Passenger Name Record (PNR) at the interior crisis center in Brussels on April 16, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

"Tragic event with dramatic consequences. The investigation is ongoing," Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon tweeted on Friday.

Authorities at first evoked a number of possible causes of death, including illness or reckless driving during the chase.

The incident caused a stir on Thursday in the refugee community of Grande-Synthe in France, as the girl was a member of a family currently housed there, according to French authorities.

The Belgium border region near France has become a magnet for refugees, with many heading towards Grande Synthe or Calais to attempt to board trucks and reach the UK.

In February, thousands of people took to the streets of Belgium’s capital, Brussels, in protest at the Belgian government’s refugee policy, calling on authorities to adopt a more “humane” approach in dealing with “those without papers.”

In 2015, Europe was overwhelmed by a huge influx of refugees fleeing conflict zones in the Middle East and North Africa.

Human rights groups say EU leaders in general, and the Belgian government in particular, have failed to fulfill their legal obligations to address the plight of refugees.

The Belgian government has been especially unsympathetic towards asylum seekers and has instead focused on a campaign of raids and arrests against the refugees stranded in Maximilien Park and Gard du Nord station.

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