Video footage which appeared to show a young Syrian boy rescuing a girl from a sniper attack was faked by a Norwegian film crew as an experiment, it has been reported.

It was claimed that the footage had been made public by the Shaam News Network, a news channel run by Syrian activists in Damascus.

The film garnered international attention after going viral on social media with 5 million views on YouTube.

The dramatic video shows a boy lying on the ground as gunfire shots ring out around him. He then gets up and runs to a burnt out car. He appears to be hit by sniper fire and falls to the ground. He gets back on his feet and runs towards the car where he is seen grabbing onto a girl's arm and he pulls her away from the gunfire. Shouts of Allahu Akbar (God is great) can be heard from a group of men nearby, as the children appear to survive the attack.

The unidentified boy, who seemed to be risking his own life to save the terrified girl as he dodged bullets to pull her to safety, was hailed a hero.

However, a group of Norwegian filmmakers have now come forward, admitting they faked the video using professional child actors.

They explained the video was scripted and filmed in Malta over the summer as part of a social experiment to "spur debate".

Lars Klevberg, a 34-year-old film director from Oslo, told BBC Trending he was "not uncomfortable" deceiving millions of people by presenting the film as real life footage, but wanted to see the reaction from the media and the public.

"We wanted to see if the film would get attention and spur debate, first and foremost about children and war," he said. "We also wanted to see how the media would respond to such a video."

The controversial project was funded by the Norwegian Film Institute, which contributed 280,000 kroner (£26,480) towards the film.

They claim it was the producers' responsibility to tell people the footage was not genuine.

Ase Meyer, a short film commissioner for the institute, said she was "surprised" people thought the footage was real because there is no sign of any blood after the boy appears to be shot.

"It was not a cynical way to get attention. They had honest motivations," she added.

Children have been the victims of horrifying atrocities in the Syrian civil war which has been raging since Spring 2011.

According to a report by Save The Children, nearly two million Syrian children have suffered brutal torture, including sexual abuse, while many others are being recruited as human shields or trained for combat from the age of five.