About 10 pounds of C-4 explosives are missing from the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base in the San Bernardino County desert, local media have reported.
In a statement to the press, Naval Criminal Investigative Service spokesman Jeff Houston confirmed that a probe has been started over the missing explosives. The spokesman did not provide any other details, such as what kind of explosives had disappeared or when the incident took place, given the ongoing nature of the investigation.
However, informed sources told ABC 10News San Diego that the cache consisted of about 10 pounds of C-4, and that the commanding officer of the unit which lost the explosives had sent out an internal message promising a monetary reward for information leading to their recovery.
The local sheriff’s office was also informed of the incident, although law enforcement assistance has not been requested at this time.
The C-4 was said to have disappeared sometime late last month amid exercises that kicked off in mid-January at the Marine Corps base, which is situated about 230 km east of Los Angeles in the southern Mojave Desert. The Marine Corps says the drills are “designed to prepare the Marine Air Ground Task Force for Operations around the globe by increasing their ability to operate and conduct offensive and defensive combat operations”.
A single pound of the mouldable explosive is powerful enough to kill several people or destroy a vehicle, and 10 pounds can blow the roof off a single family home or cause substantial localised damage to other structures, destroy an airplane, or derail a train. The explosives can be used in bombs, grenades, and claymore mines, and are heavily employed by the US military (the United States is its primary global manufacturer).
Tonnes of the explosive have also been discovered in foreign hot spots, including Syria, where it has been a favoured tool of jihadist militias.