Two boys, ages 14 and 9, died "when an explosive device [that] one of them was playing with exploded in an open field near their home," Abdi Jama, the boys' uncle, told VOA's Somali Service. He said two girls – one a 4-year-old, the other 18 months – were seriously injured.
The incident occurred in the El Lahelay village near Dhusa Mareeb in the Galgaduud region, about 480 kilometers or 300 miles north of Somalia's capital of Mogadishu.
Recent armed conflict between government forces and al-Shabab militants in the area has left unexploded ordnance (UXO) around rural villages, Jama said.
After two decades of internal conflict, "Somalia is significantly contaminated with mines" and explosive remnants of war (ERW), such as grenades, artillery shells, mortar and bombs, the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor reported in December. The Monitor is a civil society-based initiative that promotes the cleanup of the deadly devices.
From January through August of last year, 34 people were killed or maimed by mines and explosive remnants of war, according to a United Nations report that cited the Somalia Information Management System for Mine Action. Of those, 27 – almost four out of five – were children.
For instance, one child died and 17 people were injured when a grenade went off at an IDP camp in Somalia’s Sool region last July.
Children have been killed, blinded or otherwise maimed while playing with unexploded ordnance or munitions left behind on battlefields.
Abdullahi Hassan, a former Somali National Army colonel, said children can be attracted to the colorful, unusual devices.