Beirut port manager among 16 arrested in blast probe

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Beirut port manager among 16 arrested in blast probe

Beirut: Officials in Lebanon on Thursday arrested 16 people in connection to their investigation of a series of explosions at a Beirut port that killed at least 137 people.

Lebanon’s state-run NNA news agency reported that Judge Fadi Akiki, a government representative at the military court, said officials questioned at least 18 ports and customs officials as part of the probe.

No further details were given about the identities of those questioned or arrested.

The arrests come one day after the Lebanese government said it planned to place port officials under house arrest amid an investigation to determine why 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored at nearby warehouses.

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab blamed the chemical for the larger of two explosions that rocked the city Tuesday.

Human Rights Watch urged Lebanese authorities Thursday to invite international experts to conduct an independent investigation.

“The level of devastation in Beirut is incomprehensible, and the responsible authorities should be held accountable,” Aya Majzoub, Lebanese researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “Given the Lebanese authorities’ repeated failure to investigate serious government failings and the public’s distrust of government institutions, an independent investigation with international experts is the best guarantee that victims of the explosion will get the justice they deserve.”