|Mortar explosion kills seven US Marines
Seven US Marines were killed and eight others wounded when a mortar round exploded while still in its launch tube during a training exercise in Nevada, the military said.
The accident involved a powerful 60 millimeter round and the Marine Corps ordered a ban on the use of such mortars after the incident, pending the outcome of an investigation, AFP reports.
“A blanket suspension of 60 mm mortars and associated tubes is now in effect until review is complete,'' said Marine Corps spokeswoman Captain Kendra Motz.
The number of troops reported wounded in the blast rose to eight late on Tuesday, including two “very seriously’’ injured, according to a Marine Corps statement.
“The Marines were conducting live fire and maneuver training at the Hawthorne army depot,'' said Brigadier General Jim Lukeman, head of the 2nd Marine Division, which was taking part in the drill.
A 60 mm round went off while in a mortar tube and “we don't know yet what caused this malfunction,'' the general told reporters at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where the 2nd division is based.
The vast depot in the western Nevada desert spans 147,000 acres and includes more than 2,000 bunkers. Its desolate terrain and high altitude is used to train troops preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.
Major General Raymond Fox, the commander of the II Marine Expeditionary Force, expressed sorrow over the casualties.