Lebanese security officials have warned the Prime Minister and the President last month that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s port could explode and destroy the capital. It has been recently indicated in the exclusive documents by the Reuters news agency.
Beirut’s port exploded just two weeks later. The massive blast killed at least 163 people whereas more than 6,000 were injured. Not only this, the explosion has also destroyed some 6,000 buildings, according to municipal authorities.
According to the documents by the General Directorate of State Security, a private letter was sent to President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab on July 20.
According to Reuters, a security official said that the letter summed up the findings of a judicial investigation launched in January which concluded the chemicals needed to be secured immediately.
The state security report, which confirmed the correspondence to the president and the prime minister, has not previously been reported.
The official reported to Reuters, “There was a danger that this material if stolen, could be used in a terrorist attack,”
“At the end of the investigation, Prosecutor General (Ghassan) Oweidat prepared a final report which was sent to the authorities”, he said referring to the letter sent by the General Directorate of State Security, which oversees port security.
“I warned them that this could destroy Beirut if it exploded,” said the official, who was involved in writing the letter and declined to be named.
Reuters could not independently confirm his description of the letter.
The correspondence could fuel further criticism and public fury that the blast is just the latest, if not most dramatic, an example of the government negligence and corruption that has already pushed Lebanon to economic collapse.
Aoun confirmed last week that he had been informed about the material. He told reporters he had directed the secretary-general of the supreme defense council, an umbrella group of Lebanon’s security and military agencies chaired by the president, to “do what is necessary”.
“(The state security service) said it is dangerous. I am not responsible! I don’t know where it was put and I didn’t know how dangerous it was. I have no authority to deal with the port directly. There is a hierarchy and all those who knew should have known their duties to do the necessary,” Aoun said.