FBI investigators are set to arrive in Lebanon this weekend to help investigate the massive chemical blast in Beirut that killed nearly 200 and injured thousands.
Word of when the US team will be on the ground came from a top State Department official who visited the explosion site Saturday. After a tour with Lebanese Army officers, Undersecretary for Political Affairs David Hale called for a thorough and transparent investigation of the Aug. 4 explosion, the Associated Press reported.
“We really need to make sure that there is a thorough, a transparent and credible investigation. I know that is what everyone is demanding,” Hale told reporters.
Lebanon invited both the US and France to take part in the probe after tens of thousands took to Beirut’s streets last week to protest the government’s mishandling of the blast, which also left more than 300,000 homeless.
A team of FBI investigators is due to arrive in Lebanon this weekend to take part in the probe of Beirut's massive explosion, a senior U.S official said after visiting the location of the blast. https://t.co/TLmo9CX9tJ
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 15, 2020
The cause of the fire that ignited nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate at Beirut’s port remains unclear. Documents have emerged showing the country’s top leadership and security officials were aware of the chemicals stored at the port.
Over the past half-dozen years, the country’s customs, military, security agencies and judiciary had issued at least 10 warnings about the nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate, the AP reported, citing government documents that surfaced on social media.
Search and rescue crews flew in from around the world in the immediate aftermath. Hale toured the site of the blast with Lebanese army officers.
Many Lebanese want the probe taken out of the hands of their government, fearing that bickering among the long-entrenched political factions, notorious for corruption, won’t allow any results to come to light that are damaging to their leadership.
Top Lebanese officials, including President Michel Aoun, have rejected calls for an independent probe, describing it as “a waste of time” that would be politicized.
Late on Friday, the leader of the powerful Hezbollah group said he did not trust any international investigation, a clear reference to the FBI assistance. Hassan Nasrallah said the cause of the explosion is still unclear, adding that any international probe would likely seek to clear Israel of any responsibility in the port explosion, if it had any.