BEIRUT, Lebanon – A team of FBI investigators is due to arrive in Lebanon over the weekend to join the investigation of the massive explosion in Beirut, said a senior US official who visited the scene on Saturday.
David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs, called for a thorough and transparent investigation. He said the FBI team was invited by Lebanese authorities to help determine the causes of the August 4 explosion that killed nearly 180 people and injured thousands.
It seeks to determine the cause of the fire that detonated almost 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in the port of Beirut.
Documents that came to light recently reveal that the highest hierarchy of government and security knew of the existence of these substances. French researchers also participate.
“We really have to make sure that a thorough, transparent and credible investigation is conducted. I know that’s what everyone demands, ”Hale said.
Search and rescue crews arrived from different parts of the world after the incident. Hale toured the site with Lebanese army officers.
Amid the countless tragic stories of the Beirut port explosion that killed at least 170 people, a joyous one has emerged: Newborn nurse Pamela Zeinoun was working in the maternity wing of St. George’s Hospital during the blast.
Many Lebanese want the government to withdraw from the investigation for fear that clashes between entrenched political factions, notorious for their corruption, would prevent the dissemination of conclusions harmful to their leaders.
On Friday night, the leader of the powerful Hezbollah militia said he does not trust international investigators, in a clear allusion to the presence of the FBI. Hassan Nasrallah said that any international investigation would have to exonerate Israel of all responsibility for the explosion.
Israel will suffer “equally devastating retaliation” if the investigation reveals that it participated in the explosion.
Israel has denied any involvement, and so far no evidence has emerged to suggest otherwise. But Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who has the backing of Hezbollah, has said that it is one of the hypotheses under investigation.
The image was left intact after the explosion that shook Beirut.