September 23, 2020

Beirut: Donald Trump suggests 'bomb of some kind' caused huge explosion in Lebanese city

August 04, 2020

Donald Trump has contradicted Lebanese officials and suggested a "terrible attack" caused a massive explosion in Beirut.

The cause of the blast has not been confirmed - but the Lebanese prime minister has blamed thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored at a warehouse.

Mr Trump told reporters: "I've met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel that this was not some kind of manufacturing explosion type of an event... They seem to think it was an attack. It was a bomb of some kind."

The US president did not say what information his generals had used to inform their opinion, but it clashes with the early assessments of officials in the Middle Eastern country.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab tweeted on Tuesday night to point the finger at what he said was an estimated 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stored dangerously for six years at a warehouse

Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound used as fertiliser and also in explosives.

Lebanon's internal security chief, Abbas Ibrahim, earlier echoed the prime minister and said a highly explosive material had been confiscated from a ship some time ago and stored at the port.

Local TV station LBC named the substance as ammonium nitrate.

A counter-terrorist bomb disposal operator looked at footage of the smoke produced by the explosion and told Sky News it was unlikely to have been caused be gunpowder or ammunition.

Schools minister Nick Gibb told Sky News that it was "premature to speculate" on the cause of the explosion when asked about Mr Trump's comments, as he offered the UK government's assistance in investigating the blast.

"The Lebanese government have announced they're conducting an inquiry and we are ready to help support the Lebanese government with any technical support that they need," he said.

"This is a tragedy and the Lebanese authorities are, of course, investigating the cause of that tragedy.

"I think before we have the results of that inquiry, it's premature to speculate."

Large parts of the Lebanese capital have been devastated by Tuesday afternoon's explosion, which sent a huge shockwave across the city.

Residents reported collapsed ceilings and shattered windows as far as 2km (1.2 miles) away and the explosion was even heard and felt in Cyprus.

Beirut resident Fady Roumieh, who was standing in a car park east of the blast, said it was "like a nuclear bomb"

Sky News Middle East editor Zein Ja'far, who was in downtown Beirut at the time of the explosion, said it caused windows to "cave in".

"It tore apart the facade of the building we're in, and once the dust settled we managed to get ourselves and others in this block outside," said Ja'far.

He said there were a lot of "very dazed, very bloodied people" wandering around in shock.

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