US defense officials contradict Trump about Beirut blast

US defense officials contradict Trump about Beirut blast
The blast in Beirut was felt from very far distance. Source: Getty Images
3 Min Read

Daily US Times: Three US Defense Department officials have said as of Tuesday night there was no indication that Beirut blast, the massive explosion that shook Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Tuesday, was an “attack,” contradicting an earlier claim from President Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, While speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump offered sympathy and assistance to the people of Lebanon after the explosion, which left more than 100 dead and thousands injured and he referred to the incident as a “terrible attack.”

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said the blast was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely in a warehouse.

The US President said at the press conference: “Let me begin by sending America’s deepest sympathies to the people of Lebanon, where reports indicate that many, many people were killed, hundreds more were very badly wounded in a large explosion in Beirut.”

But the defense officials of his administration, who declined to be identified so they could speak freely, said they didn’t know what the President was talking about.

One official said that if there were indications anyone in the region pulled something off of this scale, it would trigger automatic increases in force protection for US troops and assets in the region — if for no other reason than worry about retribution attacks.

None of that has happened so far, the official noted.

What caused the blast in Beirut, is still confusing. The blast was initially blamed on a major fire at a warehouse for firecrackers near the port, but the director of the general security directorate later said the explosion was caused by confiscated “high explosive materials,” but did not provide further details.

Officials of Lebanon have not called the explosion an attack.

Two State Department officials told that following President Trump’s comments Tuesday, Lebanese officials raised concerns with US diplomats about the use of the word “attack” at this point.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Lebanese government is investigating the cause of the explosion and the US looks forward to that outcome.

But on Tuesday during his briefing, Trump did not shy away from implying that Beirut had been targeted. The US President said the US has a “very good relationship with the people of Lebanon and we will be there to help.”

Trump said: “Looks like a terrible attack,” appearing to look up from notes on his podium.

Being asked if he was confident if the explosion was an attack and not an accident, Mr Trump said it “seems like” it was, based on what US military officials have told him.