WASHINGTON (AP) A U.S. Navy warplane mistakenly dropped a bomb on soldiers during a training exercise yesterday in Kuwait, killing five Americans and one New Zealander, Pentagon officials said.

Paul Wong
President Bush leads a moment of silence yesterday in honor of those killed.<br><br>AP PHOTO

The Navy F/A-18 Hornet was practicing “close air support” for ground troops at the Udairi bombing range, 45 miles northwest of Kuwait City, when it dropped explosive ordnance on or near an observation post, the U.S. Central Command said.

The command said in a statement the six were confirmed dead and five American military personnel were taken to hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. Two of them were released.

For hours after the accident the Pentagon made no official statement confirming the number of casualties.

Pentagon officials who discussed the matter only on condition of anonymity said initially that five people had been killed. They later raised the figure to six, a figure confirmed by the command in its statement.

The command said other military personnel hurt in the accident were treated at the scene. It did not say how many.

Two of the Americans killed were from the Army and two were from the Air Force, said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

One Pentagon official said an estimated 10 people were injured. A second official said no civilians were involved.

President Bush, traveling in Panama City, Fla., opened a speech on his budget proposals and military spending with a brief mention of the accident.

“I”m reminded today of how dangerous service can be,” Bush said.

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