Police in the northwestern Ugandan district of Adjumani are investigating the deaths of six children, killed by a metal device that exploded in a refugee settlement where many South Sudanese have sheltered due to fighting in their own country.
Josephine Angucia, a police spokesperson for Uganda’s West Nile region, said preliminary reports indicate about 10 children from the camp were playing in the bush Tuesday when they found an explosive device and tried to open it with a knife.
“These children hailing from Maaji Two refugee settlement went out on a playing spree. In the process they came across a metallic object so they picked [up] this item, then decided to cut it using a panga [knife]. That was when the object exploded killing three instantly,” Angucia told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.
She said three other children later died from their injuries at a local hospital. The deceased children ranged in age from nine to 14.
Angucia said a team of police officers who investigated the scene surmised the object was unexploded ordnance that was discarded during past fighting between the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) or other rebels.
“This could have been an old grenade or bomb which was left behind by the former rebels who invaded the areas. These are rebels who were under LRA, commanded by Joseph Kony and those of the UNLF (Uganda National Liberation Front), who were harboring in the areas from the 1980s to early 1990s,” Angucia told VOA.
Police discovered a panga knife and other metallic remnants at the scene.
Angucia urged people sheltering in the Ugandan camps to report any suspicious looking objects to the nearest authorities.
Authorities are trying to comfort families residing in the camp following the tragedy.
“Police have teamed up with other stakeholders to try to calm down the communities, try to sensitize them more about such and advising the children not to go and pick [up] metallic items or these old suspicious-looking metals in the bushes,” said Angucia.