Boy Killed, Friends Wounded Playing With Cluster Bomb

A 13-year-old boy was killed and five other boys wounded in northern Laos after a cluster bomb exploded as they were trying to open it with a knife, the Vientiane Times reported Thursday.

The boys, aged 5 to 13, had been foraging for bamboo shoots in Huaykhae village of Luang Prabang province over the weekend when they found the unexploded ordnance (UXO), the report said.

The surviving boys told officials that they threw the bomb back and forth while walking home, and when they arrived back in the village, tried to open it to see what was inside. They tried to cut it open with a knife, striking it a few times until it exploded, according to the report.

During the Vietnam War, more than 2.5 million short tons of U.S. munitions were dropped on Laos – more than were dropped on Germany and Japan combined during World War II. Per capita, Laos is the most heavily bombed country in the world.

According to the Lao government, a quarter of the country’s villages are contaminated with UXO.

The Vientiane Times reported that deminers have cleared more than 39,821 hectares of land (98,400 acres) since 1996, and identified and destroyed 1,345,431 items of UXO.

UXO in Laos maims an average of about 300 people every year, though that figure dropped to 56 in 2012, and to 16 in the first six months of this year, the Vientiane Times said.

Nearly a quarter of the casualties are children.