Defense

Esper contradicts Trump: ‘Most believe’ Beirut explosion was an accident

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Wednesday said “most believe” the massive explosion that killed at least 100 people in Beirut was an accident, contradicting President Trump, who a day prior called the blast an “attack.”

While the Trump administration is still getting information on what happened on Tuesday, “most believe it was an accident, as reported,” Esper said during the Aspen Security Forum.

Esper declined to give more information on the explosion that left widespread devastation throughout Lebanon’s capital city but called the situation a “tragedy.”

“Lebanon’s struggling right now in a number of ways, and it’s just a shame to see it happen. When you see the video, it’s just devastating,” he said.

Esper’s remarks contradict those made on Tuesday by Trump, who said his military and national security advisers indicated to him the explosion was caused by “a bomb of some kind” and called it an “attack.”

The Lebanese government, meanwhile, has said the explosion was probably caused by highly explosive material that was in storage at the port after being confiscated from a ship. But officials there have not indicated whether the explosions were deliberate or an accident. 

The blast sent shockwaves across the city that overturned cars, blew out windows, collapsed balconies and roofs, and injured thousands of people.

The Pentagon chief said he had spoken to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier on Wednesday about offering humanitarian assistance to the country and that the administration had reached out to the Lebanese government.

“We’re positioning ourselves to provide them whatever assistance we can — humanitarian aid, medical supplies, you name it — to assist the people of Lebanon,” he added.

Lebanon is currently in the midst of a massive economic crisis in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Tags Donald Trump Mark Esper Mike Pompeo

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