BEIRUT (AP): The FBI will join Lebanese and other international investigators in the probe of the massive explosion at Beirut’s port that killed more than 170 people, injured thousands and caused widespread destruction, a US diplomat said Thursday.
Lebanese authorities had invited the FBI to take part, and it is one way that Washington can help the country deal with the effects of the disaster, said US Undersecretary for Political Affairs David Hale as he toured the Gemayezeh neighborhood, which was damaged by the August 4 blast.
“The FBI will soon join Lebanese and international investigators at the invitation of the Lebanese in order to help answer questions that I know everyone has about the circumstances that led up to this explosion,” he told reporters.
It is still not known what caused the fire responsible for igniting nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate that were stored for years in Beirut’s port, but documents have emerged that show the country’s top leadership and security officials were aware of the stockpile. French investigators are also taking part in the probe.
Lebanese officials agreed Thursday on naming a judicial investigator to lead the probe under the auspices of the Supreme Judicial Council, which handles crimes that infringe on the country’s national security, as well as political and state security crimes.
The US Embassy said Hale is expected to “reiterate the American government’s commitment to assist the Lebanese people in recovering from the tragedy and rebuilding their lives.” He will also stress the “urgent need” for embracing fundamental reforms by Lebanon’s leaders.
So far, Washington has offered $18 million in humanitarian assistance provided by US Agency for International Development and the departments of State and Defense. The US is one of the largest donors to the Lebanese armed forces.