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  • Bulgarian police patrol a walled section of the border with Turkey.

    Bulgarian police patrol a walled section of the border with Turkey. | Photo: AFP

The refugee, identified as a 20-year-old Afghan, died shortly after a shot was heard.

Serbian police arrested a hunter suspected of shooting an Afghan refugee dead in the country’s southeast near the border with Bulgaria, Belgrade said Wednesday.

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Security forces were patrolling near the town of Pirot late Tuesday when they “heard a shot and then met six migrants, one of whom had been shot in the chest,” a Defense Ministry statement said.

There were four hunters near the spot, one of whom was arrested after an initial probe.

“Upon the arrival of emergency services, doctors could only establish the death of a 20-year-old male citizen of Afghanistan,” the statement added, providing no further details.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkan route taken by hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East, Asia and Africa on their way to western Europe.

Although the route was effectively shut down in March, refugees have continued to cross the region in smaller numbers, often with the help of smugglers.

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Since mid-July, when Belgrade launched joint police and army patrols to beef up its border security, more than 3,700 refugees have been found trying to cross without official approval, government figures show.

More than 10 percent of the Afghan population has been displaced following the U.S. invasion in 2001. Before the war in Syria started, Afghans formed the biggest group of refugees worldwide.

However, Afghans are not recognized as refugees by Europe, which refers to them instead as “economic migrants,” allowing members of the European Union to deny their requests for asylum—despite the ongoing war in Afghanistan, where U.S. and Afghan troops continue to fight the Taliban and, increasingly, the Islamic State group.

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