Explosive material found in Beirut port after blast was stored for years, says president
Explosive material found in Beirut port after blast was stored for years, says president/node/1733026/middle-east
Explosive material found in Beirut port after blast was stored for years, says president
Lebanese firefighters stand on a ladder amid billowing smoke as they extinguish the remaining flames at the seaport of Beirut, on Sept. 11, 2020, a day after a huge fire erupted in harbor warehouses. (AFP)
BEIRUT: Several tons of highly explosive material found at Beirut’s port, just weeks after the same chemical was blamed for causing a massive detonation there, had been in storage for 15 years, the Lebanese president said on Friday.
The army said on Sept. 2 it had discovered a stockpile close to the port of 4.35 tons of ammonium nitrate, the highly explosive chemical blamed for the huge Aug. 4 blast that killed about 190 people and ruined a swathe of Beirut.
The Aug. 4 blast was caused by a far larger quantity of the chemical, about 2,750 tons, which officials said had been stored for about six years at the port in unsafe conditions.
Critics said the lack of proper care and attention in storing such highly explosive material revealed the depth of dysfunction in the way Lebanon has been governed. The country is grappling with an economic crisis under a mountain of debt.
After meeting senior army officers overseeing work at the devastated port, President Michel Aoun said in a statement the 4.35 tons of ammonium nitrate found near a port entrance had been stored since 2005. He said it had been safely destroyed.
He also said the army inspected 143 containers at the port that he said were found to hold other flammable material.
On Thursday, warehouses at the port, some still holding stored goods despite blast damage, erupted into a huge fire. A source said the blaze was caused by welding during repairs, as stray sparks set light to flammable contents.
Thursday’s blaze, barely a month after the huge explosion, sent a cloud of acrid smoke over the capital and generated panic in the city, still traumatized by the blast that smashed buildings in the area and shattered windows all over Beirut.
As well as killing about 190, the Aug. 4 explosion injured 6,000. The president’s statement said nine people were still listed as missing since the blast.
Policeman killed, 7 wounded in Houthi drone attack in Yemen’s Taiz
Two of the seven injured people are in critical condition
Al-Eryani said the militia will not stop its practices unless it becomes under military and political pressure
Updated 07 March 2021
DUBAI: One policeman was killed and seven others were wounded in a Houthi drone attack targeting a police station in Yemen’s Taiz province, state news agency Saba News reported.
Two of the seven injured people are in critical condition, the report said.
Meanwhile, Yemen’s Information Minister Muammar Al-Eryani said the Iranian-backed Houthi militia will not stop its practices unless it becomes under military and political pressure.
“The Houthi militia won’t yield to the calls for de-escalation and engage in peacebuilding based on the three references unless they come under military and political pressure, something which the international community should understand,” Al-Eryani said.
He further said that even during negotiations, the Houthis did not show willingness to reach a peaceful solution to end the conflict in the country.
“Their engagement was a mere maneuver to take a break and then regroup and recruit and brainwash more fighters,” he added.
Al-Eryani urged the international community and the United Nations to avoid wasting more time and efforts in convincing the militia to reach peace, as the country’s people are suffering due to their military escalations.
The country’s civil war kicked off in 2014 when Houthis seized the capital, leading the internationally recognized government to flee to neighboring Saudi Arabia.
Oman café stops serving beverages in baby bottles, UAE’s Ajman shutters shop for violating COVID-19 measures
This practice has received condemnation from people in Oman who called for legal measures against the cafe
Ajman emirate in the UAE has shut down a retail outlet and imposed a fine of $1,361 for violating COVID-19 measures
Updated 07 March 2021
DUBAI: A cafe in Oman’s Al-Buraimi province has suspended serving coffee to customers in baby bottles to prevent the spread of this phenomenon in the Sultanate, local daily Times of Oman reported.
News and pictures of this practice has been spreading over social media, where some cafes across the Gulf region served beverages in baby bottles.
This practice has received condemnation from people in Oman who called for legal measures against the cafe to prevent the spread of this phenomenon from the country.
Dubai authorities on Saturday also banned local cafes from serving drinks in baby bottles to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Dubai Economy said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, Ajman emirate in the UAE has shut down a retail outlet and imposed a fine of $1,361 for violating COVID-19 measures, state news agency WAM reported.
The Emergency, Crisis, and Disaster Management team coordinated with Ajman Police and the Department of Economic Development to close the shop which was overcrowded by customers who failed to maintain social distancing.
The meeting marked a landmark moment in modern religious history and in terms of Pope Francis’s efforts to deepen interfaith dialogue.
Pope Francis then returned to the sky to head to Nassiriya, where he traveled by car to Ur – traditional birthplace of the Prophet Abraham, a central figure in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths – where he made an impassioned plea for ‘unity’ after conflict in a gathering Iraq’s religious communities.
He then flew back to Baghdad, and after a brief rest celebrated the Holy Mass at the Chaldean Cathedral of St. Joseph.
Follow live coverage of his third day itinerary below (All times GMT)
0804: Pope Francis has left Mosul and is off to the small Christian village of Qaraqosh north of Iraq to visit the Immaculate Conception church.
0733: Pope Francis prays for “victims of war” outside a centuries-old church in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, heavily damaged by the Daesh group. The 84-year-old pontiff said the exodus of Christians from Iraq and the broader Middle East “does incalculable harm not just to the individuals and communities concerned, but also to the society they leave behind.”
The Rev. Raed Kallo, the only priest in Iraq’s second largest city, shared his story among the crowd and before the pontiff. He fled along with most of his congregation of 500 Christian families when Daesh overran the city in June 2014.
But he said he returned three years ago, after the extremists were defeated by Iraqi and international forces in a grueling campaign that left much of the city in ruins. He said: “My Muslim brothers received me after the liberation of the city with great hospitality and love.”
But he said only around 70 Christian families reside in Mosul today. The rest are afraid to return and many have emigrated abroad.
Also addressing the crowd was Gutayba Aagha, a Muslim and the head of the Independent Social and Cultural Council for the Families of Mosul. In words welcomed by Francis, he said: “In the name of the council I invite all our Christian brothers to return to this, their city, their properties, and their businesses.”
0709: Pope Francis is now at the Hosh Al-Bieaa (Church Square) in Mosul, where he will lead a prayer of suffrage for the victims of the war.
0655: Pope Francis arrives via helicopter in Mosul, once a stronghold for Daesh and where Christians now number little more than a few dozen families.
MOSUL WAITS FOR POPE FRANCIS
WATCH: Preparations at Hosh Al-Bieaa (Church Square) in Mosul, where Pope Francis will lead a prayer of suffrage for the victims of the war. Click on Twitter link below.
Pope Francis visits Iraqi Christians who suffered under Daesh
Under tight security, he will lead a prayer “for the victims of the war” in Mosul
He will also visit Qaraqosh, further east in the Nineveh Plain, which is one of Iraq’s oldest Christian towns
Updated 07 March 2021
BAGHDAD: Pope Francis, on his historic Iraq tour, visits on Sunday Christian communities that endured the brutality of the Daesh group until the jihadists’ “caliphate” was defeated three years ago.
The 84-year-old, traveling under tight security, will lead a prayer “for the victims of the war” in Mosul, an ancient crossroads whose center was reduced to rubble by fierce fighting to oust the Daesh, or also known as ISIL.
“We believers cannot be silent when terrorism abuses religion,” Francis said at an interfaith service Saturday, one of the many stops on the first-ever papal visit to the war-scarred country.
Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq as a “pilgrim of peace” aims to reassure the country’s ancient, but dwindling, Christian community and to expand his dialogue with other religions.
The leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics on Saturday met Iraq’s top Shiite Muslim cleric, the reclusive Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who agreed that Iraq’s Christians should be able to live in “peace.”
“We all hope that this visit will be a good omen for the Iraqi people,” Adnane Youssef, a Christian from northern Iraq, told AFP. “We hope that it will lead to better days.”
The Christian community of Iraq, a Muslim-majority country of 40 million, has shrunk from 1.5 million before the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein to only 400,000 now, about one percent of the population.
“This very important visit will boost our morale after years of difficulties, problems and wars,” said an Iraqi Christian leader, Father George Jahoula.
Back in 2014, when IS militants swept across one third of Iraq, Pope Francis had said he was ready to come to meet the displaced and other victims of war.
Seven years later, after a stop early Sunday in the Kurdish north of Iraq, he will see for himself the devastated Old City of Mosul and efforts to rebuild it.
Pope Francis will also visit Qaraqosh, further east in the Nineveh Plain, which is one of Iraq’s oldest Christian towns.
It was largely destroyed in 2014 when IS rampaged through the area, but its residents have trickled back since 2017 and slowly worked at rebuilding their hometown.
To honor the pope, local artisans have woven a two-meter (6.5-foot) prayer shawl, or stole, with the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” prayers carefully hand-stitched in golden thread in Syriac, a dialect of the language spoken by Jesus Christ that is still used in Qaraqosh.
Security will be extra-tight in the north of Iraq, where state forces are still hunting IS remnants and sleeper cells.
Many thousands of troops and police have been deployed as the pope has criss-crossed the country, taking planes, helicopters and armored convoys to cover more than 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) in-country.
The other major challenge is the Covid-19 pandemic, as Iraq has recently been in the grip of a second wave, with a record of more than 5,000 cases in a day.
Iraqi authorities have imposed lockdown measures to control crowds, but thousands of faithful are expected to flock to a stadium later Sunday in the northern city of Irbil to hear the pope.
Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s oil-rich northern Kurdish region, has been a relative haven of stability and a place of refuge for many Christians who fled IS.
Several thousand seats in the Franso Hariri stadium will be left empty to avoid creating a super-spreader event when Iraqis come to hear the Catholic leader, known here as “Baba Al-Vatican,” deliver the holy mass.
Lebanon summons Iranian ambassador over media report on Maronite leader
Hezbollah ally the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) on Saturday issued a “categorical rejection” of the media report, saying it constituted “an assault” on the position of the patriarch
Updated 07 March 2021
BEIRUT: Lebanon has summoned the Iranian ambassador over a media report on the country’s Maronite leader.
Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi was the focus of a report on the Iranian Al-Alam News Network website that accused him of supporting normalization with Israel.
Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe said on Saturday that Ambassador Ghazanfar Roknabadi had been summoned for a meeting on Monday.
The minister said the conversation with the ambassador would be “frank and sincere, based on the existing friendship between the two countries.”
An apology from the Iranian side had reached the patriarch, he added, and Lebanon’s ambassador to Tehran had been asked to provide details of what was reported by Al-Alam. “He informed me of an apology and condemnation issued by the Iranian government,” the minister said.
Earlier this month at a rally in Bkerke, north of Beirut, the cleric had called for a UN-sponsored international conference to deal with Lebanon’s economic collapse and political stalemate.
He urged neutrality so that the country would no longer be the victim of regional conflicts. But his comments drew anger from Hezbollah, as well as the critical report on the Al-Alam website.
The report said that Al-Rahi was “plotting today against the weaponry of the resistance and describes it as a militia loyal to Iran. He claims to be prudent and objective and talks about neutrality in the war for existence with global Zionism. We will definitely see him tomorrow in the arms of Israel.”
The patriarchate condemned the “insulting” report and said that, since it was issued by a foreign media organization, it was considered as “interference” in Lebanon’s internal and national affairs as well as interference in the church’s affairs.
Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi’s call for neutrality embarrassed the Free Patriotic Movement, whose supporters did not participate in the Bkerke rally.
It demanded the channel “back off and apologize” so that it did not cause internal and external unfortunate repercussions, especially since Al-Rahi’s words were clear.
“The TV channel is trying to fabricate a headline to mobilize people against Bkerke, which called a spade a spade, put the finger on the wound and spoke about the situation of all the Lebanese, without exception,” it added.
The Maronite League in Lebanon, headed by former MP Naamatallah Abi Nasr, denounced the report’s accusations about Al-Rahi and said it retained the right to “resort to the competent judiciary.”
It called on the Foreign Ministry to summon the ambassador and inform him of Lebanon’s rejection of such attitudes.
Hezbollah ally the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) on Saturday issued a “categorical rejection” of the media report, saying it constituted “an assault” on the position of the patriarch.
Al-Rahi’s call for neutrality embarrassed the FPM, whose supporters did not participate in the Bkerke rally.
After a meeting of its political council on Saturday, the FPM said that Bkerke “was and still is a beacon for open thought and an edifice of convergence.”
“Patriarch Al-Rahi has always advocated adherence to the roots of this East, and solidarity with all its components in the face of the dangers and enemies that lie in wait. It has never been a conduit for plotting against its people.”