WASHINGTON (AP) -- An explosion Monday killed at least four American soldiers disposing of ordnance in Afghanistan, defense officials said. Several were injured and others were missing.
"It doesn't appear to be hostile fire," said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Lapan. "It is related to ordnance."
Maj. Bryan Hilferty, a military spokesman in Afghanistan, indicated details were still unclear and that four were presumed killed in an explosion that happened while they were disposing of "large-caliber rockets."
Another official said the number of dead was expected to climb above four because a number were unaccounted for.
Officials said a team of about 10 Americans was handling old Russian or Chinese artillery rounds, which can be extremely unstable and difficult to even move without detonating.
The injured were being treated at a U.S. hospital set up months ago at the Kandahar airport.
"It was an accident," said Maj. Ralph Mills, a spokesman at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla.
Nearly 7,000 Americans are deployed in Afghanistan to continue the anti-terrorism effort of destroying Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, blamed in the Sept. 11 attacks on America, and his Taliban supporters.
Troops have been scouring caves and countryside in the search -- often finding and blowing up weapons caches.
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