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Mexico officials: 12-year-old shot dead was far from clash between security forces, protesters

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MORELIA, Mexico — A 12-year-old boy shot dead earlier this week was killed far from the site of a clash between security forces and protesters, Mexican authorities said Thursday.

A report from the Michoacan state prosecutor's office said the victim and four other people who suffered wounds were inside a restaurant 1,000 feet (300 meters) from the disturbance in Ostula, in the municipality of Aquila.

It said all were hit by shrapnel from bullets of an undetermined caliber, though early analysis suggested they were not military-grade. A soldier had a similar wound.

"It can be affirmed that both civilians and security forces were attacked by persons whose identity is being investigated," the report said.

Some witnesses have said federal forces opened fire Sunday when a group tried to block a highway to protest the detention of Cemei Verdia, a self-defense group leader in Aquila. Verdia was arrested earlier in the day and accused of arms possession.

The statement from the prosecutor's office said police and soldiers traveling in vehicles were surrounded by about 200 people carrying sticks and clubs. It said the troops used plastic shields and tear gas to disperse the crowd, but did not mention any gunshots coming from security forces.

The report said there were apparent bullet impacts on the exterior and interior of the restaurant where the child was shot, which based on distance and their location "could not have come from the convoy."

Authorities are still investigating.

Michoacan citizens rose up in 2013 against the Knights Templar drug cartel, which then controlled the state. Most of the vigilantes later disarmed or became rural police, but some self-defense groups persist, saying they still have no government protection from organized crime.

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