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Esper: Unclear if Beirut Blast a Deliberate Attack or Accident

Esper: Unclear if Beirut Blast a Deliberate Attack or Accident

Sunday, 9 August, 2020 - 06:30
FILE PHOTO: Secretary of Defense Mark Esper testifies during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on 'Department of Defense Authorities and Roles Related to Civilian Law Enforcement' in Washington, DC, US July 9, 2020. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said that it remained unclear whether a deadly blast in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, was a deliberate attack or an accident.

"It's just devastating and I just mourn for the people," Esper said during an appearance on Fox News' "Justice with Judge Jeanine” on Saturday night.

Some 158 people were killed in Tuesday's monster blast at Beirut Port. The explosion that devastated the city and ignited unprecedented popular rage was blamed on government negligence.

A local investigation is underway on how ammonium nitrate was allowed to rot for years in a warehouse at the port.

Esper said he already has planes lining up to deliver emergency supplies to the Lebanese people. “We want to do everything we can to help” them.

The degree to which corruption might have factored in the blast was not clear, Esper said.

"The bottom line is, we still don't know," he said. "You know, on the first day, as President Trump rightly said, we thought it might have been attack. Some of us speculated it could have been, for example, a Hezbollah arms shipment that blew up. Maybe a Hezbollah bomb-making facility."

Esper also criticized some in the media, claiming they were trying to divide Trump administration officials amid speculation about the explosion.

"I commented that it was looking more like an accident. And it's regrettable that some in the media ... [are] trying to draw divisions within the administration between maybe me and the president and others," Esper said. "Simply not true. I mean, the fact of the matter is, it's a great tragedy. Under the president's leadership, we're going to do everything we can to help the Lebanese people and to do what's right."

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