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Nevada depot explosion kills seven. What is known so far?

The explosion at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada appears to have been a training-ground accident. Early reports suggest perhaps a mortar exploded prematurely.

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Mortarmen with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, fire off illumination rounds as part of their training at the Hawthorne Army Ammunition Depot in Nevada in this file photo. An accident with a mortar at the depot Monday left seven Marines dead.

Lance Cpl. M. C. Nerl/US Marine Corps/Reuters/File

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Seven US Marines were killed Monday in an explosion during a training exercise in Nevada, a reminder of the dangers confronting military personnel even when they are not deployed to war zones.

The accident took place at 10 p.m. local time Monday at Hawthorne Army Depot in western Nevada, about 135 miles south of Reno, the Marine Corps Times website reports. In addition to the seven fatalities, eight other Marines were taken to a hospital, five of whom are listed as in being in serious condition, according to a Good Morning America/Yahoo News report.

All of the Marines involved in the accident were based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Hawthorne is used for training partly because it "provides a realistic simulation of the situation in Afghanistan," the depot's website says.

The accident involved the explosion of a 60mm mortar. The cause of the accident remains under investigation, but a military official who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said initial on-scene reports suggested that the mortar round exploded prematurely in the launcher tube.

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