Three US Defense Department officials tell CNN that as of Tuesday night there is no indication they have seen that the massive explosions that rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Tuesday was an attack, as President Trump indicated during a question and answer session with reporters at the White House.
The officials, who declined to be identified so they could speak freely, said they don’t know what the President is talking about.
One official pointed out that if there were indications anyone in the region pulled something off of this scale, it would trigger automatic increases in force protection for US troops and assets in the region if for no other reason than worry about retribution attacks.
The official notes that none of that is happening so far at least.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump offered sympathy and assistance to the people of Lebanon after the explosions, which left dozens dead and thousands injured, referring to the incident as a “terrible attack.”
“Let me begin by sending America’s deepest sympathies to the people of Lebanon, where reports indicate that many, many people were killed, hundreds more were very badly wounded in a large explosion in Beirut,” Trump said at a press briefing Tuesday evening. “Our prayers go out to all the victims and their families. The United States ready to assist Lebanon.”
Trump said the country has a “very good relationship with the people of Lebanon and we will be there to help.”
“Looks like a terrible attack,” Trump said, appearing to look up from notes on his podium.
Asked if he was confident if the explosion was an attack and not an accident, the President said it “seems like” it was, based on what US military officials have told him.
“It would seem like it based on the explosion,” Trump said. “I’ve met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel that it was not a – some kind of manufacturing explosion type of event. This was a – seems to be according to them, they would know better than I would, but they seem to think it was an attack. It was a bomb of some kind.”
There were conflicting reports on what caused the explosion, which was initially blamed on a major fire at a warehouse for firecrackers near the port. The director of the general security directorate later said the blast was caused by confiscated "high explosive materials," but did not provide further details.
Lebanese officials have not called the explosion an attack.