Lebanese officials warned stored ammonium nitrate could destroy Beirut: report

Lebanese officials warned stored ammonium nitrate could destroy Beirut: report
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Lebanese security personnel warned the country’s leaders that ammonium nitrate stored on the Beirut waterfront could lead to deadly explosions weeks before a blast killed more than 200 people.

The General Directorate of State Security in a report on the lead-up to the explosion references a private letter to Prime Minister Hassan Diab and President Michel Aoun, Reuters reported. The letter summarized a judicial probe launched in January that called for immediate action to secure the chemicals.

“There was a danger that this material, if stolen, could be used in a terrorist attack,” a senior security official told Reuters. “At the end of the investigation, Prosecutor General [Ghassan] Oweidat prepared a final report which was sent to the authorities.”

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The official, who was involved in writing the report, told Reuters they “warned them that this could destroy Beirut if it exploded.”

The directorate said in the report, which was viewed by the news service, that the port’s manifest department had submitted a series of written requests calling for a judge to order the chemicals’ re-exportation.

“[U]ntil now, no decision has been issued over this matter. After consulting one of our chemical specialists, the expert confirmed that this material is dangerous and is used to produce explosives,” the report states, according to Reuters.

On June 4, state security told port officials to install guards at the hangar where the material was stored and repair a hole in its southern wall. “The maintenance started and [port authorities] sent a team of Syrian workers [but] there was no one supervising them when they entered to fix the holes,” the official told Reuters.

The explosion has led to widespread demonstrations against the government by residents who blame officials' negligence for the disaster. The country’s Cabinet announced its mass resignation on Monday.