US marines die in mortar explosion
Published 20/03/2013 | 05:16
A mortar shell explosion has killed at least seven US marines during mountain warfare training in Nevada's high desert.
The Marine Corps said that seven marines had died and five others were seriously hurt.
John Stroud, a senior official of Veterans of Foreign Wars, began a memorial event near the site of the blast saying that one of those who had been critically injured had now also died. Mourners then laid eight floral arrangements at a park near the Hawthorne Army Depot.
Mr Stroud says he spoke with marine officers who gave him the news before Tuesday night's ceremony.
The explosion happened on Monday night at the sprawling facility during an exercise involving the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
The identities of those killed will not be released until 24 hours after their families are notified.
The blast prompted the Defence Department to halt the use of the weapons worldwide until an investigation can determine their safety.
The rescue of the wounded marines was complicated by the remoteness of the site, which is favoured because the harsh geography simulates conditions in Afghanistan.
The mortar round exploded in its firing tube during the exercise, said Brigadier General Jim Lukeman. He said investigators are trying to determine the cause of the malfunction.
The Pentagon expanded a temporary ban to prohibit the military from firing any 60mm mortar rounds until the results of the investigation. It had earlier suspended use of all high-explosive and illumination mortar rounds that were in the same manufacturing groups as ones fired in Nevada. It was not immediately clear whether more than a single round had exploded.