U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Wednesday said, “most believe” the explosion in Beirut that killed at least 135 people and wounded 5,000 “was an accident, as reported,” despite President Donald Trump’s claim that it was an attack.
“It’s really, really bad,” Esper said at the Aspen Security Conference in Colorado. “It could have been much worse.”
Esper’s comments come after the Associated Press reported that U.S. officials, speaking only on condition of anonymity to discuss internal assessments, also disputed Trump’s claim.
The Pentagon is still collecting information to determine the cause of the blast.
Trump on Tuesday said the explosion was “an attack, a bomb of some kind.”
"It seemed like it, based on the explosion," Trump told reporters at the White House. "I met with some of our great generals and they seem to feel it was. This was not some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of event. This was, seems to be, according to them, they would know better than I would – they seem to think it's an attack, a bomb of some kind."
Earlier statements by Lebanese leaders had suggested that the blast was likely caused by highly explosive material that had been stored at warehouses in the capital for years.
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