Five Spanish soldiers were killed on Thursday and three others injured, two seriously, when a bomb accidentally exploded during a training exercise at an army engineering academy in Hoyo de Manzanares in the Madrid region, Defense Ministry sources said.
The accident took place when the soldiers were involved in a controlled explosion exercise, one of the tasks they were likely to carry out in Lebanon, where they were due to be posted. The device went off when the soldiers involved were attaching detonators.
The victims belonged to a bomb-disposal unit and were wearing helmets and flak jackets, but not the protective clothing normally worn when defusing explosive devices.
Defense Minister Carme Chacón went to the scene of the accident where she met with Army Chief of Staff Fulgencio Coll, Chief of Defense Staff José Julio Rodríguez and Chief of the Naval Staff Manuel García Rebollo.
The dead soldiers, who included two junior officers and three corporals, were part of a contingent of troops being sent on a United Nations mission to clear mines in the country. "This was a terrible accident," Defense Minister Carme Chacón said. "They were preparing to save lives and they lost their own."
The minister said that those killed were experts in explosives and had just come back from a UN mission to Afghanistan. Chacón expressed her condolences to the families of those killed and wished a swift recovery for those who were injured.
The two most seriously injured were flown by helicopter to the Gómez Ulla military hospital in Madrid, while the other wounded soldier was being treated at another Madrid hospital.