Two French confirmed dead in Beirut blast, France steps up probe

Prominent Lebanon-based architect Jean-Marc Bonfils died in the Beirut explosion. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 01 September 2020

Two French confirmed dead in Beirut blast, France steps up probe

  • The death of one French victim — prominent Lebanon-based architect Jean-Marc Bonfils — had already been confirmed but the second victim has yet to be publicly identified
  • Investigators and police from France have already been at the scene in Beirut for several days to reconstruct the chain of events that led to the explosion

PARIS: France has stepped up its probe into the massive Beirut port blast last week by handing it to investigating magistrates, prosecution sources said Friday, as it was confirmed two French citizens were among the 171 people killed.
The investigation has now been entrusted to two magistrates who can ultimately decide whether to press charges over the August 4 blast, a source in the office of the Paris prosecutor told AFP.
Another source, who asked not to be named, said two French citizens were now confirmed to have been killed in the explosion.

The death of one French victim — prominent Lebanon-based architect Jean-Marc Bonfils — had already been confirmed but the second victim has yet to be publicly identified.
French prosecutors on August 5 opened a probe into “involuntary injury” using their jurisdiction to investigate acts committed abroad when French people are among the victims.
Investigators and police from France have already been at the scene in Beirut for several days to reconstruct the chain of events that led to the explosion.

The FBI will also join Lebanese investigators at the invitation of the Lebanese government, the US State Department said Thursday.
The explosion has been blamed on a vast stock of ammonium nitrate left for years in a warehouse at the port despite repeated warnings.
Lebanon’s government under Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned this week following days of demonstrations demanding accountability over the disaster.
 

Lebanese authorities have pledged a swift investigation and judicial officials said Wednesday the prosecution would question ministers and former ministers.
President Michel Aoun has rejected calls from world leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, and many Lebanese for an independent international investigation as a “waste of time.”


Fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh goes on despite US mediation

Updated 24 October 2020

Fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh goes on despite US mediation

  • Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994
  • After failed attempts by Russia to broker a truce, Pompeo hosted the Armenian and Azerbaijan foreign ministers for separate talks

STEPANAKERT, Nagorno-Karabakh: Rocket and artillery barrage hit residential areas in Nagorno-Karabakh on Saturday hours after the United States hosted top diplomats from Armenia and Azerbaijan for talks on settling their decades-long conflict over the region.
The heavy shelling forced residents of Stepanakert, the regional capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, into shelters, as emergency teams rushed to extinguish fires. Local officials said the city was struck with Azerbaijan’s Smerch long-range multiple rocket systems, a devastating Soviet-designed weapon intended to ravage wide areas with explosives and cluster munitions.
Nagorno-Karabakh authorities said other towns in the region were also targeted by Azerbaijani artillery fire. There was no immediate information about casualties.
Officials in Azerbaijan claimed that the town of Terter and areas in the Gubadli region came under Armenian shelling early Saturday, killing a teenager. They also said 13-year-old boy died Saturday of wounds from an earlier shelling of Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second-largest city.
Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994. The current fighting that started Sept. 27 marks the worst escalation in the conflict since the war’s end and has killed hundreds, perhaps even thousands, according to official reports.
After two failed attempts by Russia to broker a truce, the US waded onto the scene on Friday, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosting the Armenian and Azerbaijan foreign ministers for separate talks.
“Both must implement a cease-fire and return to substantive negotiations,” Pompeo said in a tweet after the negotiations.
Those words were ignored on the ground.
“Just now a bomb exploded in my garden,” Georgiy, a resident of Stepanakert who only gave his first name amid the war jitters, said after the overnight attack. “If this is the so-called cease-fire, let the whole world see this cease-fire.”
Georgiy, who was born in Stepanakert, said he would stay home despite the fighting.
“This is my motherland, I’m not going to leave it,” he said. “All the people will stand until the last.”
According to Nagorno-Karabakh officials, 963 of their troops have been killed, and 37 civilians also have died. Azerbaijan hasn’t disclosed its military losses, but said that over 60 civilians were killed and about 300 were wounded in the four weeks of fighting.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that according to Moscow’s information, the death toll from the fighting was significantly higher than officially reported by the warring parties, nearing 5,000.
Russia, the United States and France have co-chaired the so-called Minsk Group set up by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to mediate in the conflict, but they haven’t scored any progress after nearly three decades.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has said that to end hostilities Armenian forces must withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh. He has insisted that Azerbaijan has the right to reclaim its territory by force since international mediators have failed.
Turkey has thrown its weight behind Azerbaijan, vowing to support its ally “on the battlefield or the negotiating table.” It has trained Azerbaijani military and provided it with strike drones and long-range rocket systems that gave Azerbaijan a strong military edge on the battlefield.
Armenian officials say Turkey is directly involved in the conflict and is sending Syrian mercenaries in to fight on Azerbaijan’s side.
Turkey has denied deploying combatants to the region, but a Syrian war monitor and Syria-based opposition activists have confirmed that Turkey has sent hundreds of Syrian opposition fighters to fight in Nagorno-Karabakh.