While it is too early to label Tuesday's Beirut explosion an "attack," former Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., on Newsmax TV did question why a reported 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate had been stockpiled there.
"I think that anyone with any common sense knows that you do not store that much of ammonium nitrate in an unsafe manner, because you're just looking for an accident to basically happen," retired Army Lt. Col. West, now the chairman of the Republican Party in Texas, told Wednesday's "John Bachman Now."
"So right now it would seem to me, initial – maybe Hezbollah was using this ammonium nitrate to store it there and they were going to use it later on for the purposes of creating bombs and things of that manner.
"For whatever reason, something went wrong."
West noted the reports of the accidental fire in one warehouse spreading to where the ammonium nitrate was being stored "unsafely." The fact the materials were stored so close together without proper precautions does raises questions that need to be investigation, according to West.
"That port, that facility, and of course in Lebanon, you see a very strong Hezbollah presence," West said. "They control that area."
Four suspects belonging to Lebanon's armed Shi'ite Hezbollah group have been tried in absentia by the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon for the 2005 bombing murder of former Sunni Muslim Prime Minister Rafik al Hariri. The verdict is due Friday.
Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and is a close ally of Syria, has denied any role in the 2005 bombing.
Founded in 1982 by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and classified by the United States and other Western countries as a terrorist organization, Hezbollah (Party of God) is the most powerful group in Lebanon due to a heavily armed militia that fought several wars with Israel. It grew stronger after joining the war in Syria in 2012 in support of President Bashar al-Assad.
It is both a political movement and guerrilla army, drawing its support from among Lebanon's Shi'ite population. The group and its allies helped form Lebanon's current government.
Hezbollah's arsenal has been a major point of contention. The group says its arms are needed to deter Israel and, more recently, to guard against Islamist insurgents in Syria.
Hezbollah has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., Canada, Germany, Britain, Argentina, and Honduras as well as the U.S.-allied, mainly with the Sunni Muslim Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Kuwait. The EU classifies Hezbollah's military wing as a terrorist group, but not its political wing.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.
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