At least three children were killed and two injured as a bomb suspected to have been planted by insurgents a long time ago exploded at Ngala village of Borno State on Saturday, officials have said.
The bomb was planted under a bridge in the border community probably to bring it down, but it failed to go off.
On Saturday, children playing under the Mblu Bridge unintentionally detonated the lethal weapon.
The incident raised concerns about the safety of children in the so-called “liberated communities” especially now that the state government is returning thousands of internally displaced persons to their communities.
The United Nations expressed worries about a future where children’s safety may not be guaranteed due to the abandoned explosives in Borno.
“The avoidable deaths of the children – as young as 12 years – who were playing on Mblu Bridge in Ngala, is yet another sad reminder that children remain direct and indirect targets of the protracted conflict wracking north-east Nigeria,” the Nigerian head of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Peter Hawkins, said.
“While three children have sadly lost their lives, three others are in critical conditions while two other children sustained mild injuries,” the top humanitarian worker said.
UNICEF worries that in 12 years of protracted conflict in the north-east, thousands of children have been killed, maimed, abducted, displaced, and experienced multiple violations of their human rights. UNICEF is deeply worried that conflict-affected children continue to be casualties of war.
“First of all, we extend our deepest and heartfelt sympathy to the families of the children killed. No family should have to go through this – and no child should fall victim to unexploded remnants of war while playing,” said Mr Hawkins.
He said children are at particular risk from unexploded ordnance, which are small enough to pick up or kick around, and which children can mistake for toys or objects of value. Such weapons account for over half of those killed or injured by landmines and other explosive remnants of war globally.
“These deaths are unacceptable. All sides to the ongoing conflict must protect children and prioritise their wellbeing at all times. Playing fields, schoolyards and communities must be safe and habitable for children,’’ said Peter Hawkins.
“Children’s lives should not be at stake in a conflict they didn’t start. We must address the shrinking safe spaces for children and ensure that children – especially those already affected by conflict – are protected and have a chance to survive and fulfil their potential.”
In the last 12 years of the Boko Haram insurgency, the insurgents often build a fortress of explosives around their seized territory to ward off attacks from government forces.
Security operatives hunting the insurgents have lost soldiers who ran into landmines planted by the insurgents.
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