Colonel who died suspiciously had asked for removing ammonium nitrate: Lebanese media

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A Lebanese official who died under suspicious circumstances in 2017 had called for the removal of the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate which arrived at the Port of Beirut in 2013, according to a 2014 document shared by Lebanese media on Thursday.

Colonel Joseph Skaf, Chief of the drug control division at the Lebanese Customs, wrote at the time: “We inform you that this division received information about the presence of the Rhosus ship at the Port of Beirut. It is loaded with ammonium nitrate, which is used in explosives, is highly dangerous and constitutes a threat to public safety.”

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He asked the authorities to move the ship away from the port’s docks and to place it under supervision, according to the document.

Skaf died in 2017, but the cause of death wasn’t determined definitively as there were two conflicting autopsy reports.

Major Lebanese newspaper an-Nahar reported at the time: “Did the retired Colonel Joseph Skaf’s foot slip or was he thrown off a height of three meters? A question which remains unresolved, especially after the two contradictory forensic reports commissioned by the Public Prosecution from two medical examiners,” citing a source in Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The ISF source said at the time: “One of the two reports rules the incident an accident, and the other confirms that it was deliberate due to finding bruises on the deceased’s head.”

The ammonium nitrate stockpile at Port of Beirut exploded on Tuesday, killing at least 137 people and injuring more than 5,000.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said the explosion was due to the stockpile being stored at the port for years without safety measures.

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