US President Donald Trump has repeated the claim that the deadly explosions in Beirut could be "an attack", deviating substantially from the Pentagon chief's assessment of the situation.
"I mean, somebody left some terrible explosive type of devices and things around, perhaps it was that, perhaps it was on attack. I don't think anybody can say right now," Trump said during a press conference on Wednesday, Xinhua news agency reported.
"You have some people think it was an attack and some people think it wasn't," the President added. "In any event, it was a terrible event and a lot of people were killed and a tremendous number of people were badly wounded, injured," Trump said.
After the explosions struck the Lebanese capital on Tuesday, Trump had said that he had "met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel that this was not some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of event".
However, the president's claim was contradicted by US defence officials, including Defence Secretary Mark Esper. On Wednesday, Esper said that the Pentagon was still gathering information about the explosions adding that most people believe it was an accident.
Two massive explosions rocked Beirut on Tuesday and primary information has revealed that they might have been caused by ammonium nitrate that was stored in warehouse No. 12 at Port of Beirut since 2014.
Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan on Wednesday said the death toll increased to 135, while the number of injured people stood at 5,000.
The chief substance that caused the explosion was ammonium nitrate that was stored in a very large quantity – estimated to be around 2,750 tons – at a government warehouse on the waterfront. The explosives stored had been seized over the years by the government and had been lying for six years at the warehouse.
"It isn't acceptable that a shipment of ammonium nitrate — estimated to be 2,750 tons — was in a depot for the past six years without precautionary measures being taken," PM Diab reportedly had asserted.
The two blasts were preceded by fire at another warehouse which reportedly contained fireworks. Eye-witnesses have confirmed seeing firework-like explosions minutes before the blast. Whether the main blast could have been triggered by one of these projectiles is not yet clear.
(With inputs from IANS)