- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 11, 2020

An American contractor associated with the U.S. Army issued a warning at least four years ago that a substantial stockpile of explosive chemicals stored at Beirut’s port was unsafe.

The port security expert noticed the substance during a safety inspection at the port, the New York Times reported, citing a U.S. diplomatic cable.

U.S. and international officials say the cause of the devastating Aug. 4 explosion at the port of Beirut has yet to be confirmed, but an accidental fire seems to have set off a warehouse loaded with highly flammable ammonium nitrate.

The blast killed at least 149 people, wounded thousands more, left tens of thousands homeless, caused at least $10 billion in damage and leveled a huge swath of the historic city once hailed as “the Paris of the Middle East.”

According to the cable, that was issued by the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon Friday and marked unclassified but sensitive, poses a list of Lebanese officials who were aware of the storage of the ammonium nitrate.

The substance is often used in fertilizers and to make bombs. It had been stored in the facility since 2014.

The contractor who spotted the substance’s location had served as an adviser to the Lebanese Navy from 2013 to 2016. The adviser, “conveyed that he had conducted a port facility inspection on security measures during which he reported to port officials on the unsafe storage of the ammonium nitrate,” the cable said.

It stated that the cause of “the initial fire remains unclear — as does whether fireworks, ammunition or something else stored next to the ammonium nitrate might have been involved.”

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