Outgoing minister, security chiefs to testify in Lebanon blast probe

File photo: Smoke rises on Aug. 5, 2020, after an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, the day before. The blast, caused by the detonation of a stockpile of explosive chemicals that had been illegally imported and improperly stored, killed more than 218 people, injured thousands and destroyed entire neighborhoods of the capital. The Iran backed Hezbollah militant group has been for months trying to get Judge Tarek Bitar who is investigating the blast fired , reportedly because it is concerned about exposing its role in supplying the Syrian government with the explosive chemical for use in its barrel bombs against civilians AP Photo/Hussein Malla

A Lebanese judge leading the probe into Beirut’s catastrophic port blast has summoned an outgoing minister and two security agency heads to testify, a judicial source said Tuesday.

This August 5, 2020 file photo, is the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon. 191 killed , dozens still missing , 6500 Injured after 2,750 Tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate Exploded . They were stored there for nearly 7 years. The shelf life of the product is supposed to be 6 months according to experts . After 6 months it starts solidifying and becomes more explodable (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, Beirut, Lebanon

Judge Fadi Sawan is to hear caretaker transport and public works minister Michel Najjar and State Security agency head Tony Saliba on Thursday, the source said.

“If it turns out there had been negligence on their part, they could become suspects and be interrogated as such,” it said.

Judge Fadi Sawan who is leading the probe into Beirut’s catastrophic port blast. President Michel Aoun has rejected the call for an international investigation , calling it a waste of time and promised that the perpetrators of the disaster will be identified within 4 day period and will be brought for justice , but the explosion took place over a month ago and the perpetrators have not been identified yet .

Sawan will also hear the account of the influential head of the General Security apparatus, Abbas Ibrahim, next Monday.

Ibrahim was the first official to reveal that the blast was caused by the Ammonium nitrate that was stored in warehouse number 12 inside the port

Twenty-five suspects are in custody over the monster August 4 monster that killed more than 190 people, wounded thousands, and ravaged homes and business across large parts of the capital.

Major General Abbas Ibrahim , head of Lebanon’s Directorate of General Security (DGS) is a member of the Amal Movement which is closely associated Hezbollah

Hundreds of tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been stored unsafely in a port warehouse for at least six years, it emerged after the explosion.

The disclosure sparked widespread outrage over alleged official negligence that many said was to blame for the blast.

Some 2,750 tonnes of the ammonium nitrate were initially stored at the port, but experts believe the quantity that ignited was substantially less than that.

After the explosion, State Security said it had warned the authorities of the danger of the unstable chemicals stored in the port’s warehouse 12, and signalled that some of it had been stolen due to a hole in a wall.

In the week of the blast, workers had begun repairs on the decrepit warehouse.

Security sources have suggested the welding work could have started a fire that triggered the blast, but some observers have rejected this as an attempt to shift the blame for high-level failings.

Those arrested so far include top port and customs officials, as well as Syrian workers who allegedly carried out the welding hours before the explosion.

Outgoing caretaker transport and public works minister Michel Najjar. The port falls under the responsibility of his ministry

Najjar represents the Marada movement of MP Suleiman Franjieh in the outgoing cabinet . Franjieh is a key ally of Hezbollah and the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad

Lebanon has rejected an international investigation into the country’s worst peace-time disaster, but its probe is being aided by foreign experts, including from the FBI and France.