A BOY has suffered a serious leg injury after being shot at "numerous times" in Bolton town centre on Saturday afternoon.

The 12-year-old was shot in the knee with an air rifle as he was playing football.

The boy was taken to hospital where he will require surgery for his injuries.

Shoppers reported seeing armed police in Bridge Street and a large response from the emergency services outside Argos.

Eye witnesses reported that the boy was playing football when his ball ended up on a flat roof nearby. As he went to retrieve it, he was shot at a number of times before he was hit.

Police were called to the incident in Bridge Street shortly before 4pm on Saturday. They have since launched an investigation and are currently searching CCTV in the area.

Becky Keane said: "My husband was in town and saw lots of police. He thought someone had been shot in town. There was a huge commotion outside Argos.

"I have since seen on Facebook that a young lad was shot in the leg. I have heard it was a BB gun.

"Every day something like this happens in Bolton."

A member of staff at a nearby shop told the Bolton News he had seen police activity, including two members of armed police outside the Market Place loading bays in Bridge Street at about 3pm.

Other residents took to social media following the incident, with one woman posting that a teenager had been taken to hospital after "being shot in the leg."

Police say they are keen to hear from anyone with information about a man who was seen in the area who is described as being white, of average build with glasses and with a grey beard and black hair tied back in a ponytail.

Det Insp Andrew Fallows from Greater Manchester Police's Bolton team said: "This was an appalling assault on a young boy who was just playing football in the street.

“How someone could comprehend shooting at a child is beyond me, this is any parent’s worst nightmare when sending their kids out to play.

“Thankfully his injuries aren’t life threatening, but he will require surgery and his recovery is not going to be short.

“We are determined to find whoever decided using an air gun was appropriate action to take on a boy retrieving his football.”

Anyone with any information is asked to call police on 0161 856 5757. Alternatively call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.