US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the mammoth explosion that rocked Beirut was likely an accident, pouring cold water on a theory floated by the president, who claimed the Pentagon assessed that a “bomb” had set off the blast.
“[We’re] still getting information on what happened,” Esper told the Aspen Security Conference on Wednesday, but added “most believe it was an accident as reported, and beyond that I have nothing further to report on that. It’s obviously a tragedy.”
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Hours after the massive explosion tore through a port in the Lebanese capital on Tuesday, killing at least 135 people and wounding more than 4,000, US President Donald Trump told reporters that he had met with “some of our great generals,” saying they felt the blast was “an attack, it was a bomb of some kind.” He declined to elaborate on that assessment, however, and cited no evidence.
Trump declined to elaborate on that assessment, and cited no evidence, but on Wednesday doubled down on his doubts.
How can you say accident? Somebody left some terrible explosive type devices and things around... perhaps it was that. Perhaps it was an attack.
“I don't think anybody can say right now. We're looking into it very strongly. Right now, you have some people think it was an attack and some people that think it wasn't. In any event, it was a terrible event,” Trump told a press conference.
Despite widespread speculation and rumors about a potential attack, which were only fueled by the president’s remarks, Lebanese authorities have brushed aside any suggestion of foul play and maintain the blast was accidental, resulting from the improper storage of some 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate at a port warehouse. A probe into the exact cause of the blast is ongoing, and authorities have placed a series of port officials under house arrest as they look into those responsible for the vast store of dangerous chemicals.
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