ANKARA, Turkey>> An explosion and blaze triggered by an accidentally dropped hand grenade has killed 25 soldiers during a stock check at a Turkish ammunition depot, the government said Thursday.
Four other soldiers were injured in the blast, which lit up the night sky late Wednesday with flames, and shattered windows in homes in the nearby town of Afyonkarahisar in western Turkey, terrifying residents.
Forestry and Water Minister Veysel Eroglu ruled out terrorism and sabotage, saying the blast occurred in a section where hand grenades were kept. The soldiers’ remains were discovered early Thursday after a subsequent blaze was extinguished.
“One hand grenade was dropped during stock-taking and sorting, causing a large explosion,” Eroglu said. “There was no external intervention. There certainly was no sabotage or anything like that.”
Eroglu said hand grenades were found strewn across the area and authorities were detonating them with controlled explosions. Turkey’s NTV television showed security officers walking along a road and in fields, looking for unexploded ammunition.
Families of conscripts serving at the facility rushed to the area after hearing news of the explosions. Many broke into tears after the deaths were reported, NTV said. Some remains were sent to the capital, Ankara, for DNA tests so they could be identified.
Some civilians were evacuated from the nearby town overnight. Authorities warned people to stay away from the area.
In 1997, an explosion at Turkey’s largest weapons factory in Kirikkale in central Turkey killed two people and sparked a fire that raged for days.