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Trump says Beirut explosion was an 'attack' despite no evidence it was deliberate

US president says generals told him that the explosion, which has devastated the Lebanese capital, was caused by a 'bomb of some kind'
In Lebanon, there appeared to be a consensus that the blast was caused by an accident (AFP)
By in
Washington

US President Donald Trump has described the explosion that rocked Beirut on Tuesday as an "attack," despite no immediate evidence suggesting it was intentional.

In an opening statement at a news conference, Trump expressed solidarity with the people of Lebanon, offering Washington's assistance to deal with the aftermath of the blast that killed dozens and injured thousands across Beirut.

"We will be there to help. It looks like a terrible attack," he said.

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The Lebanese government has suggested that the enormous blast in Beirut was caused by a fire that led to the detonation of highly explosive chemicals stored at a warehouse in the capital's commercial port.

When pressed about characterising the incident as an "attack", Trump stood by his statement.

"Are you confident that this was an attack and not an accident?" a reporter asked the president.

Trump said US generals believe the explosion was caused by a "bomb of some kind".

"It seems like it, based on the explosion," he said. "I met with some of our great generals, and they just seem to feel that it was; this was not some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of event. This seems to be - according to them; they would know better than I would - but they seem to think it was [an] attack." 

Earlier in the day Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed sympathy for Lebanon without mentioning anything about an attack.

"I'd like to extend my deepest condolences to all those affected by the massive explosion at the port of Beirut on August 4," Pompeo wrote on Twitter.

"We are monitoring and stand ready to assist the people of Lebanon as they recover from this horrible tragedy."

Later on Tuesday, Pompeo said in an official statement: "We understand that the Government of Lebanon continues to investigate its cause and look forward to the outcome of those efforts."

The White House did not respond to MEE's request for comment by time of publication.

In Lebanon, there appeared to be a consensus - even amongst bitter political rivals - that the blast was caused by accident. 

The explosion, which was felt across the country, devastated Beirut, killing at least 73 people and wounding more than 3,700.