Europe

Turkey grenade depot blast kills 25

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Media captionThe explosion caused a large blaze at the depot

An explosion at an ammunition store in Turkey has killed 25 soldiers and wounded four others, the military says.

The blast late on Wednesday evening was thought to have happened when soldiers were moving hand grenades at the store in the western province of Afyon.

Environment Minister Veysel Eroglu said the explosion was most likely caused by an accident and he ruled out terrorism.

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Image caption Investigators have begun examining the site

It is thought many of the soldiers were trapped inside the building as firefighters tackled the huge blaze.

Rescuers found it difficult to reach the soldiers because hand grenades lay strewn around the area, reports said.

Identification of those killed at the scene was impossible because of the force of the explosion, Hurriyet newspaper said.

A large fire burned at the complex for several hours and emergency services had difficulty responding to the incident because of the high security in place.

The wounded have been sent to a military hospital for treatment.

On hearing the blast, witnesses described residents in the provincial capital, Afyonkarahisar, taking to the streets believing an earthquake had struck.

"It was probably caused after a hand grenade was dropped," Mr Eroglu told reporters.

Because of the explosion, some of the grenades had been scattered around the area, he said, prompting military officials to take measures for public safety. The minister added that experts had been carrying out controlled explosions in the area.

By Thursday morning, the authorities said the fire had been brought under control and relatives gathered close to the base in an attempt to find out news of the soldiers.

A field tent was erected at a local school to help families and residents affected by the incident.

Provincial governor Irfan Balkanlioglu said investigators believed the explosion happened as the grenades were being accounted for and had not involved sabotage or any militant attack.

The BBC's James Reynolds in Turkey says the soldiers' deaths come at a time of heightened activity by the Turkish military.

Turkish warplanes have reportedly carried out strikes against Kurdish position in the south-east near the border with the Syria.

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