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Beirut blast probe opens with arrest order for port customs head

Beirut blast probe opens with arrest order for port customs head

Authorities say that some 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded in the port

TOPSHOT-LEBANON-BLAST

The Lebanese judge investigating the Beirut port explosion issued a formal arrest warrant for the head of customs after grilling him for five hours on Monday, alleging negligence and dereliction of duty in handling the stockpile of ammonium nitrate that blew up killing more than 170 people.

Customs chief Badri Daher and 18 other officials have been in custody for just under two weeks following the August 4 blast. The state prosecutor has charged 25 people over the tragedy that also injured thousands and devastated swaths of the capital.

Judge Fadi Sawwan was appointed to carry out the probe by Lebanon’s High Judicial Council. He’s expected to question former finance and public works ministers.

French explosive experts are aiding the investigation and a US Federal Bureau of Investigation team is expected to arrive in Beirut Monday to assist the Lebanese judiciary.

Authorities say that some 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded in the port, where it had been kept since late 2013 despite repeated safety warnings.

The blast struck a nation already reeling from its worst economic and political crises in decades.

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