Soon after President Trump called Tuesday’s massive explosion in Beirut an “attack” and “a bomb of some kind,” citing information from “some of our great generals,” multiple U.S. officials told Fox News that so far no evidence suggests that is true.
“I’ve met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel that this was not some kind of manufacturing explosion type of an event,” Trump said. “They seem to think it was an attack. It was a bomb of some kind.”
The president added that the U.S. was ready to assist Lebanon in the aftermath of the blast.
But Trump’s characterization of the blast as an attack drew some pushback in Washington.
“It’s still too early,” said one U.S. official who, like others, declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
Earlier Tuesday, Lebanon’s interior minister said 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrite exploded in a warehouse in Port of Beirut after having been stored there for years.
The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear. The blast killed more than 70 people and injured 3,000, with both figures expected to rise.
A fire appears to have broken out in the warehouse prior to the explosion. The cause of the fire also remains in question, officials said.
Pentagon officials declined to immediately comment on the president’s statements.
“The Department of Defense refers you to the White House on this matter,” a Pentagon spokesman said when reached for comment about the president’s remarks.
Preliminary reports from intelligence officials in the Middle East and the United States suggested the blast was accidental – but some were not willing to immediately rule out an intentional attack.
Multiple sources said that much of the operations were under “unofficial” control of Hezbollah and indications have emerged that a fire broke out at an explosives depot inside the facility.
Several sources also pointed to organized crime operations run out of the port, primarily controlled by Hezbollah, and that the explosion potentially involved “multiple containers” but was not terror-related.
In the hours leading up to the explosion, according to local reports, a swell of anti-government protesters tussled with security forces outside the ministry of energy as the economic woes for citizens worsen.
Beirut’s governor, Marwan Abboud, broke into tears as he toured the site, exclaiming, “Beirut is a devastated city.” Prime Minister Hassan Diab vowed that “those responsible will pay.”
Fox News’ Hollie McKay and The Associated Press contributed to this story.