Mortar Training Suspended After Marines Die

The Marines have suspended use of 60 millimeter mortars after a round exploded in its firing tube during a training exercise. At least seven Marines were killed and several were injured in the blast Monday night during mountain warfare training in Nevada's high desert.

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And I'm Renee Montagne.

One day after a mortar explosion killed at least seven Marines during a training exercise in Nevada, the Marine Corps suspended the use of 60-millimeter mortars, the kind involved in that accident. Several more Marines were injured.

NPR's Tom Bowman has more.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: The Marines are investigating how a 60-millimeter mortar apparently detonated inside a firing tube, killing and injuring Marines at the Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada. They're looking into whether the Marines followed procedures, or whether there was a malfunction with the mortar.

But already, the Marines are taking precautions. The mortars will no longer be used for training exercises or in combat missions in Afghanistan until an investigation is complete.

One Marine officer told NPR the suspension of the mortar rounds for training is not a big deal. But there's concerns for the Marines in Afghanistan, he said, where the mortars are needed when they come in contact with Taliban fighters.

The Marines involved in the accident were from the First Battalion, Ninth Regiment out of Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. Brigadier General Jim Lukeman is a senior officer there.

BRIGADIER GENERAL JIM LUKEMAN: We send our prayers and condolences to the families of the Marines and sailors that have been killed and injured in this tragic accident. Our first priority is to provide them the support they need during this very difficult time, and we're doing that right now.

BOWMAN: The First Battalion deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. They were in Nevada on a routine training assignment.

Tom Bowman, NPR News, Washington.

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