- “There was a danger that this material, if stolen, could be used in a terrorist attack,” the security official told Reuters.
- The letter was sent to the President and the Prime Minister after a series of memos and documents sent by port officials to the courts in the six years prior to the explosion.
- On Monday, Diab announced his government’s resignation and blamed “systemic corruption” for the tragedy at the port of Beirut.
The Lebanese President and Prime Minister had been warned in July that the 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in the port of Beirut posed a serious security risk, and could destroy the capital, according to official documents. However, the duo failed to take appropriate action.
A report by the Lebanese State Security Directorate mentions the existence of a letter sent directly to President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab on 20 July, two weeks before the destructive explosion in the port of Beirut which devastated the capital and led to the death of at least 163 people with more than 6,000 others injured.
“There was a danger that this material, if stolen, could be used in a terrorist attack,” the security official told Reuters. An official who was involved in writing the letter sought to remain anonymous.
“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 to the prime minister and president by the General Directorate of State Security, which oversees port security. I warned them that this could destroy Beirut if it exploded.”
The letter was sent to the President and the Prime Minister after a series of memos and documents sent by port officials to the courts in the six years prior to the explosion, calling for the removal of the cargo from a location so close to the center of the capital.
Shortly after last week’s explosion, President Aoun, and Prime Minister Diab stated that the source of the disaster was 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer used in agriculture and to manufacture explosives, which was kept in the port for more than six years. President Aoun said:
“(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.”
In the days that followed, especially during the past weekend, thousands of Lebanese took to the streets to demand the resignation of the Government and to challenge widespread corruption in the country, which is currently going through a deep economic crisis.
On Monday, Diab announced his government’s resignation and blamed “systemic corruption” for the tragedy at the port of Beirut. In announcing the resignation of his executive, Diab assured that the authorities will continue to investigate the explosion and that those responsible for the explosion will be held responsible.
France has already sent an emergency team to Lebanon comprising of amongst other professionals, chemistry experts to assist Lebanese authorities in search and rescue operations, as well as helping victims and cleaning up rubble. About 50 French police officers are also already in Beirut assisting with the investigations.