Ongoing investigations into Beirut’s August 4 Port explosion have unearthed suspicious links between three influential businessmen with ties to Bashar al-Assad and the ammonium nitrate that exploded in Beirut’s hangar 12. The explosion killed over 200 people, injured thousands, devastated the city’s suburbs, and left hundreds of thousands homeless. In a recent appearance on the local television network Al-Jadeed, Lebanese filmmaker Firas Hatoum revealed some findings from his investigative work on the matter. According to Foreign Policy, Savaro Ltd., the UK-registered firm responsible for the shipment of the 2,750 tones of nitrate, has come under scrutiny after the shell company was found to have connections to George Haswani, Mudalal Khuri, and Imad Khuri. Many theorize that Beirut had always been the intended destination for the nitrate, not Mozambique as the government claims, and that the firm played a hand in an elaborate smuggling operation for explosives that may have been intended for Damascus.
George Haswani and brothers Mudalal and Imad Khuri are all dual Syrian-Russian nationals. Haswani, known as “Moscow’s man in Damascus,” has had close involvement with jihadis, regime-backed militias, ISIS, and the Nusra front, according to Foreign Policy. The Khuri brothers were sanctioned for attempting to supply ammonium nitrate to the Assad regime in 2013, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, as cited by Foreign Policy.
Suspicions of Syrian involvement emerged as early as last October. Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri pointed out that French and other intelligence agencies had warned of attempts to smuggle arms and nitrate to Syria through Lebanon. He also noted attempts to import equipment and technology from North Korea in 2012, efforts Lebanese intelligence ultimately stopped.
Former military judge Fadi Sawan, currently tasked with investigating the port tragedy, is now facing attacks on his reputation and work as Lebanese elites attempt to slow the investigation. Sawan has summoned four ministers for testimony, so far with no response. The judge who previously built an ambivalent reputation because of his sympathetic stance towards security forces, has surprisingly gained the approval of independent legal experts for his questioning of four ministers, one of whom is Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister Hassan Diab. Regardless of whether Sawan is pushed out by elites and replaced, the Lebanese people demand accountability and an investigation of any Syrian role.
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You can also read the Guardian article by clicking here.
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