Pentagon Asks for Answers after Fatal Exercise; US Navy Warplane Kills Six Military Personnel in Training Accident

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PENTAGON officials were yesterday investigating what went wrong in a training exercise in Kuwait in which a US navy warplane dropped a bomb on military personnel, killing six people.

A Navy F/A-18 Hornet strike-fighter was practising "close air support" for ground troops at the Udairi bombing range, near the Iraqi border, when it dropped the 500lbs device "on or near" an observation post, the US Central Command said.

Those killed and injured apparently were in the target area, but it was unclear what went wrong.

Five of the victims were Americans and the sixth was a New Zealander.

The command said, in a statement, five other American military personnel were taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. Two of them were later released.

An accident investigation board has been appointed and will arrive in Kuwait this week.

"We will work hard to take care of the families involved and to find out how such an accident could occur," Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a statement.

The New Zealand government pressed for answers in the accident that killed one of its soldiers, acting Major John McNutt, 27.

"It's a terrible tragedy and ...we are now looking for an urgent, detailed explanation as to how such a training exercise can go so terribly wrong," Defence Minister Mark Burton said from New Zealand. …