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Feds: Soldiers took anti-tank weapon with 'live rocket' off Army base

Five soldiers are under investigation for taking an Army anti-tank weapon loaded with a live rocket home from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state and passing it around, a federal law enforcement spokeswoman confirmed to msnbc.com.

NBC station King-TV in Seattle was first to reveal the probe. The station reported that one of the soldiers smuggled the M-72 LAW (light anti-tank weapon)  -- a shoulder-fired launcher armed with a rocket capable of penetrating armor nearly one-foot thick -- off the sprawling base southeast of Seattle. The weapon was then held in the possession of at least five soldiers.

“It was indeed a live rocket,” Cheryl Bishop, spokeswoman for the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), told msnbc.com on Wednesday.

According to KING-TV, this is how the weapon was discovered:

The soldiers' secret reportedly became revealed when one of the troops was deployed to Afghanistan last year. His girlfriend called police when she found the rocket launcher in their closet.

The weapon was turned over to federal agents by the Pierce County Sheriff’s office, Bishop said.

“There is nothing that we know about to date that there was any intention for it to be used," Bishop said. “They did have it – it was an active and live military LAWs rocket.”

Investigators told King-TV they expect that charges for illegally possessing a military-grade weapon will be filed by federal prosecutors against the soldiers.

The Army has assisted in the investigation, Bishop said. It was unclear if any disciplinary action within the military has taken place against the soldiers.

An Army spokesman at the base told King-TV he wasn’t aware of the investigation.

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