Lebanon receives satellite image of Beirut explosion from Russia

MOSCOW (AP)-The Lebanese Foreign Minister said on Monday that Russia provided satellite images of Beirut Port on the day of the devastating bombing last year, which he said may help figure out what happened.

Abdallah Bouhabib is visiting Moscow. He spoke after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“We are grateful and highly appreciative of receiving the satellite images of the Beirut port bombing incident on August 4, 2020. We will hand them over to the Lebanese judiciary, hoping that this will help reveal the truth about the tragedy that struck Lebanon.” Habib said at a press conference.

The Russian Space Agency Roscosmos said it will provide satellite images at the request of Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

Lavrov said he hopes the images will help the investigation.

He said the images showed the Beirut port before the explosion and the scene after the explosion.

“Roscosmos experts said that it should help experts figure out what happened based on the characteristics of the damage,” Lavrov said.

“Let us hope that Lebanese experts, with the help of foreign colleagues, can solve this problem that has become a serious political stimulus in Lebanon,” he said. “We hope to help resolve it as soon as possible.”

Nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate-a highly explosive material used in fertilizers-has been improperly stored in the port of Beirut for years. On August 4, 2020, the chemical fertilizer was ignited, triggering a large-scale explosion that killed more than 216 people, injured more than 6,000, and destroyed parts of the city.

It is described as one of the worst non-nuclear explosions in the world. But more than a year later, I still don’t know what caused the initial fire and the explosion, who was responsible for storing these materials in the port, and why they stayed there for so long.

The investigation into the bombing incident was blocked by domestic political disputes, and Lebanese officials either questioned the integrity of the investigating judge or refused to cooperate with him.

Judge Tarek Bitar was the second judge to lead the investigation because the first judge was ordered to be removed from office after similar charges were made against him. Politicians, many people who know that fertilizers exist in ports, accused the judges of being biased or politicizing the investigation.

Bitar has asked countries that have satellites over Lebanon to provide authorities with images taken before and after the explosion to help investigations.

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