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Police make more arrests after Liverpool boy's killing

Police in Britain investigating the fatal shooting of an 11-year-old boy who was walking home from a football match said on Saturday they had arrested five more young people, including two girls.

world Updated: Aug 25, 2007 23:12 IST

Police in Britain investigating the fatal shooting of an 11-year-old boy who was walking home from a football match said on Saturday they had arrested five more young people, including two girls.

Rhys Jones was killed on Wednesday night, moments after a kick-around with friends outside a pub in Liverpool, northwest England. Merseyside Police say he was shot by a hooded teenager riding a BMX bicycle.

Officers have now arrested three boys aged 19, 16 and 15 and two girls aged 18 and 15 on suspicion of murder, authorities said. The 19-year-old is in hospital after falling from a window as police tried to arrest him at his home.

On Friday, they arrested a 16-year-old boy on suspicion of murder who is also still being questioned. Two youths aged 18 and 14 were arrested Thursday and later released on bail.

The boy's death has triggered a wave of revulsion across Britain, provoking questions about the influence of gang culture in big cities such as London, Liverpool and Manchester.

Many newspapers on Saturday highlighted the simmering feud between two local gangs in the area where Rhys was shot, suggesting that the killer may have links to them.

Britain's biggest-selling daily newspaper The Sun has offered a 100,000-pound (147,325 euro, 201,449 dollar) reward for information that leads directly to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible.

The boy's death has also plunged Liverpool into shock, with another outbreak of gun violence Friday night reminding residents of the potential dangers on their streets.

Two doormen were shot and injured, one critically, outside a nightclub in Penny Lane, an area immortalised in the 1967 Beatles song of the same name.

Meanwhile, a 37,000-strong crowd at Rhys's favourite football club, Everton, stood for a minute's applause before the side's Premier League home game at Goodison Park with Blackburn Rovers.

Rhys's father Stephen, in an Everton replica shirt, and the little boy's mother Melanie, a football scarf in the home colours draped around her neck, looked on from the touchline. Melanie was seen wiping away tears throughout.

The father of four-year-old British girl Madeleine McCann, who disappeared while on holiday in Portugal, sparking intense media interest, sent his support to the Jones family.

"It is a tragic waste of a young life and his parents have our sympathy," Gerry McCann said at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, where he was giving a speech.

Detectives say they want to speak to a woman seen pushing a pram near where Rhys was killed five minutes before the attack, saying she could be a key witness.

Chief Superintendent Chris Armitt made a televised appeal for residents to "stand up and be counted" and come forward with any leads they had.

He also highlighted protection measures available for anyone who wanted to give evidence in court anonymously.

Following Rhys's death, officers in Croxteth have also started using special powers which allow them to stop and search pedestrians or vehicles for dangerous weapons.

People can only be stopped and searched in England and Wales under certain circumstances, including when people are known to be carrying weapons, an outbreak of serious violence is predicted or as part of an anti-terror operation.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has condemned the shooting of Rhys as "a heinous crime that has shocked the whole of the country". His government has pledged tough action on crime and to crack down on gang culture.

At least six teenagers have been killed in shootings in London since February.

While gun crime represents less than half a percent of all recorded offences in Britain, official figures show that the number of crimes involving firearms has been increasing since 1997.