Intelligence probe into Beirut explosion lays out liabilities

A detailed report by Lebanon’s elite Information Branch intelligence agency has found a host of state officials and security agencies responsible for a massive explosion in Beirut’s port in August that killed some 200 people.

The 350-page report, which has been handed to the public prosecutor’s office but not made public, drew on investigations by the Information Branch itself, in addition to probes by the military police and judiciary in the days after the August 4 explosion that destroyed large parts of the capital, injured more than 6,500 people and initially left hundreds of thousands homeless.

The Information Branch is the intelligence wing of Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces, a prominent security agency that has led investigations into bombings and attacks since the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

A senior judicial source familiar with the agency’s report told Al Jazeera on Monday it laid primary blame for the explosion on the Beirut port authority and Lebanese Customs for leaving some 2,750 tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate at Hangar 12 for nearly seven years in unsafe conditions. It made specific note of current and former customs chiefs Badri Daher and Shafik Merhi, saying they could have acted on their own to remove the explosives and thus prevent the explosion.

The report went on to afford secondary responsibility to the state’s lawyer, known as the Cases Authority, the directorate of land and maritime transport at the public works ministry (tasked with overseeing the port) and Army Intelligence and the State Security agency, both of which have offices at the port.

While security agencies knew of the potential dangers of storing the explosive material at Beirut’s port, they “did not appreciate the fact that their lives were in danger”, the report concludes, drawing on interrogations of state employees and officials.

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