VIDEO: Lebanese President says possibility of external interference via rocket, bomb in Beirut blasts - GulfToday

VIDEO: Lebanese President says possibility of external interference via rocket, bomb in Beirut blasts


A combination of pictures created on Wednesday from UGC footage the moment a massive explosion rocked Beirut. AFP

Lebanon's president said an investigation into the Beirut port warehouse explosion was looking at whether it was caused by negligence, an accident or possible external interference, his office cited him as telling local media on Friday.

"The cause has not been determined yet. There is a possibility of external interference through a rocket or bomb or other act," President Michel Aoun said in comments carried by local media and confirmed by his office.

More than 60 people are still missing in Beirut, four days after a massive explosion at the port left more than 150 people dead, a health ministry official said Saturday.

"The number of dead is 154, including 25 who have not yet been identified," the official told. "In addition, we have more than 60 people still missing."

The health minister said on Friday that at least 120 of the 5,000 people who were injured on Tuesday are in critical condition.

BeirutPort750A general view of the area damaged by a massive explosion and a blast wave in Beirut. AP

He said the probe into Tuesday's blast at a warehouse housing highly-explosive material was being conducted on three levels. "First, how the explosive material entered and was stored ... second whether the explosion was a result of negligence or an accident ... and third the possibility that there was external interference."

Saudi Arabia has sent two planes to Lebanon carrying more than 120 tonnes of medicine, medical devices, emergency supplies, tents, shelter kits and food items for people in Beirut affected by the massive explosion this week.


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The Saudi government said on Friday a specialized team from the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center will supervise the distribution.

Sixteen staff members at Beirut's port, the site of a massive explosion, have been detained over the deadly blast that devastated large parts of the city, a military prosecutor said Thursday.

Lebanese authorities had announced an investigation into Tuesday's explosion, which they said was triggered by a fire igniting 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse at Beirut's port.

Lebanon's foreign minister said on French radio on Thursday that an investigating committee had been given four days to determine responsibility for the blast, which killed 145 people and wounded at least 5,000.

BeirutBlastDevastationAn aerial view of the port of Beirut after the blasts.

Military prosecutor Fadi Akiki said in a statement that 18 staffers at Beirut's port had been called in for questioning, 16 of whom remain in custody pending further investigations.

They include port and customs officials as well as maintenance workers and their managers, Akiki said.

His statement came as an official confirmed to AFP that the central bank had ordered an asset freeze for seven port and customs officials, including Badri Daher, director-general of Lebanon's customs authority.

The official spoke on the condition of anonimity because he is not authorised to speak on the issue.

A banking source confirmed to AFP that all the country's commercial banks recieved the order, which also lifts banking secrecy from accounts owned or linked to those in question.

Even as they counted their dead and cleared streets of debris, many Lebanese were boiling with anger over a blast they see as the most shocking expression yet of their leadership's incompetence.

BeirutAerialViewA satellite image of the port of Beirut, a day after the blasts. AFP

Many have raised questions as to how such a huge cargo of highly explosive material could have been left unsecured for years.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who visited Lebanon on Thursday, called for an international enquiry, echoing demands widely supported in Lebanon and abroad for an independent probe

Hours after Macron left Gemmayzeh, Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm tried to become the first Lebanese government official to visit the area, only to be driven out by protesters.

"Resign, you criminal! Would you accept anything less if your sister were among those killed?” one protester shouted at her. As she was about to respond, another sprayed her with a water hose. She left as protesters chanted, "Revolution!” and "Resign.”

Later, Macron met with Aoun and the prime minister and held a gathering with the head of the main parliament blocs.

Residents of Beirut vented their fury at Lebanon’s leaders Thursday during a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, blaming them for the deadly explosion that ravaged the capital. Lebanon's customs chief told The Associated Press the Cabinet was warned in the past year that a stockpile of explosive chemicals stored at the port was dangerous.

For many Lebanese, Tuesday’s blast was the last straw after years of corruption and mismanagement by a political elite that has ruled for decades.

 Burj-Khalifa-Lebanon Burj Khalifa lit up in Lebanese flag colours in solidarity with its people.

There have been widespread pledges of international aid to Lebanon, which was already mired in a severe economic crisis that has crippled its ability to rebuild from the blast. However, the international community has been reluctant to offer support to the notoriously corrupt and dysfunctional government.

Lebanon’s various factions, including the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group, have ruled the country since the 1975-1990 civil war. Almost all the country’s public institutions are divided up among the factions, which use them as patronage generators for themselves and their supporters. Little actual development is put into the institutions and anything that requires joint action often becomes mired in bickering. As a result, even basic services like electricity and trash collection are a shambles.

Lebanon-2-750 A wounded man walks near the scene of an explosion in Beirut. AFP

Lebanon's central bank has ordered a freeze on the accounts of the heads of Beirut port and Lebanese customs along with five others, following the Beirut port warehouse blast that rocked the capital, according to a central bank directive seen by Reuters and confirmed by the central bank.

The directive, dated Aug.6, from the central bank special investigation commission for money laundering and terrorism fighting said the decision would be circulated to all banks and financial institutions in Lebanon, the public prosecutor in the appeals court and the head of the banking authority.

It said the freeze and lifting of banking secrecy would apply to accounts directly or indirectly linked to Beirut Port General Manager Hassan Koraytem, Lebanese Customs Director General Badri Daher and five others, including present and former port and customs officials.

Egypt lights the Pyramids of Giza in Lebanese flag colours.

A government spokesperson told Reuters the central bank directive was in accordance with a court ruling based on a petition from the committee set up to investigate the blast.

State Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat ordered a travel ban on the same seven individuals, a judicial source and local media reported.

Koraytem and Badri had both told Lebanese broadcasters on Wednesday that several letters had been sent over the years to the country's judiciary requesting the removal of highly explosive material warehoused at the port which blew up on Tuesday.

The prime minister and presidency have said that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years without safety measures at the port warehouse that blew up.

People look for survivors after the blasts in Beirut. AFP

One woman covered in blood from the waist up walked down a trashed street while talking furiously on her phone. On another street, a woman with a bloodied face looked distraught, staggering through traffic with two friends at her side.

"This country is cursed,” a young man passing by muttered.

The explosions came at a time when Lebanon is suffering its worst economic crisis in decades, which has left nearly half of the population in poverty.

Lebanon's economy has collapsed in recent months, with the local currency plummeting against the dollar, businesses closing en masse and poverty soaring at the same alarming rate as unemployment.

Beirut-Injury A wounded woman is evacuated from the site of the explosions in Beirut. AP

The explosions also come as Lebanon awaits the verdict on Friday on the 2005 murder of former Lebanese premier Rafic Hariri, killed in a huge truck bomb attack.

Four alleged members of the Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah are on trial in absentia at a court in the Netherlands over the huge Beirut bombing that killed Sunni billionaire Hariri and 21 other people.

A woman in the city centre on Tuesday told reporters: "It felt like an earthquake ... I felt it was bigger than the explosion in the assassination of Rafic Hariri in 2005."


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