News World Middle East Customs chief arrested over deadly Beirut blast

Customs chief arrested over deadly Beirut blast

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The head of Lebanon’s customs authority has been formally arrested after being questioned about the massive explosion in Beirut, the state-run National News Agency reports.

The investigation is focused on why nearly 3000 tonnes of explosive ammonium nitrate was being stored at the city’s port.

The ignition of the stockpile caused an explosion that tore through the capital, killing at least 180 people and wounding 6000.

Thirty people are still missing after the August 4 blast.

More than 70,000 workers are believed to be unemployed due to the explosions, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, on top of 220,000 people estimated to have lost their jobs as a result of the financial crisis that began last October 2019 and those left jobless by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms Dujarric said about 40,000 buildings had been damaged, with 3000 residential structures severely damaged. At least 2000 doctors were either injured or had their clinics destroyed.

Documents that surfaced after the blast, the single most destructive in Lebanon’s history, showed officials had known for years that 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate was stored in a warehouse at the port and knew about the dangers.

Judge Fadi Sawwan questioned customs chief Badri Daher, who was detained days after the blast, for 4-1/2 hours in the presence of his two lawyers before issuing the arrest warrant, the agency said. Mr Daher will remain in custody as the investigation continues.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said the probe into the blast was “very complex” and would not be finished quickly.

A team of FBI investigators landed in Beirut on Sunday, according to a Lebanese aviation official. They are believed to have joined the investigation.

Popular anger has swelled in Lebanon about the ruling elite’s corruption and mismanagement. The government, which is supported by the militant Hezbollah group and its allies, resigned on August 10 and continues to serve in a caretaker capacity.