'Possibility of external interference,' says Lebanon's president

Death toll from Beirut blast mounts to 154

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Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Friday that a probe into the Beirut port warehouse explosion is also exploring the possibility of whether it was caused by
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Friday that a probe into the Beirut port warehouse explosion is also exploring the possibility of whether it was caused by "a rocket or a bomb" in addition to simple negligence or an accident. — Courtesy photo

BEIRUT — Lebanese president has not ruled out the possibility of an external interference in the devastating Beirut blast on Tuesday.

President Michel Aoun said on Friday that a probe into the Beirut port warehouse explosion is also exploring the possibility of whether it was caused by "a rocket or a bomb" in addition to simple negligence or an accident.

Aoun’s statement comes after the death toll from the explosion rose to 154, with another 5,000 people wounded.

Aoun told local media: "The cause has not been determined yet.”

"There is a possibility of external interference through a rocket or bomb or other act."

Aoun said he had asked French President Emmanuel Macron “to secure aerial images to determine what happened and if the French do not have them, we will request them from another source,” Reuters reported.

President Donald Trump said this week that US generals had told him that the powerful explosion which rocked Beirut appeared to have been caused by a "bomb of some kind."

"It looks like a terrible attack," Trump told reporters at the White House.

"It would seem like it, based on the explosion. I met with some of our great generals and they just seemed to feel that it was," he said.

"This was not some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of event. It seems to be, according to them — they would know better than I would — but they seem to think it was an attack.

"It was a bomb of some kind, yes."

The Lebanese president said the probe would be conducted in three parts: “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.”

Aoun also said 20 port officials had been detained as part of the investigation.

The central bank said it froze the accounts of seven individuals, including the port chief and the head of customs.

According to Lebanon's Health Minister Dr. Hamad Hassan, one in five of some 5,000 people injured in Tuesday's blast had required hospitalization, and 120 were in critical condition.

Meanwhile, international rescue teams on Friday were still searching the rubble of Beirut's port nearly three days after the explosion hit the city.

French and Russian rescue teams with dogs were seen searching the port area on Friday.

Among those located in the rubble was Joe Akiki, a 23-year-old port worker who had been missing since the explosion.

Dozens of people are still missing.

Some 300,000 people, more than 12 percent of Beirut's population, are unable to return to their homes as the blast left hundreds of buildings uninhabitable.

Officials have estimated losses in the range of $10 billion to $15 billion.


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