The United States detonated two atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945, respectively. The two bombings killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people, most of whom were civilians, and remain the only use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict.
It's been a year since one of the world's largest ever non-nuclear explosions ripped through Lebanon's capital, killing more than 200 people.
Six urgent letters sent by customs officials since 2014 -- the year the material was unloaded at the port under mysterious circumstances -- had alerted the authorities to the danger posed by the chemicals.
One was written by a port official in May 2020, just months before the blast. "This substance, if ignited, will lead to a large explosion, and its outcome will almost obliterate the port of Beirut. If the substance were exposed to any kind of theft, the thief would be able to use this substance to build explosives," warned the document, which was obtained by CNN after the incident.
It is clear that successive leaders — four governments and three prime ministers — either would have or should have known about the threat posed by the material, and that little was done to address the danger.
But what is far from clear, 12 months on, is what ignited the ammonium nitrate.
Adding to the mystery around the ammonium nitrate is the fact that all of Lebanon's major political parties have a strong presence at the port.
"Lebanon's main political parties, including Hezbollah, the Free Patriotic Movement, the Future Movement, the Lebanese Forces, the Amal Movement, and others, have benefited from the port's ambiguous status and poor governance and accountability structures," the HRW report said.
"Political parties have installed loyalists in prominent positions in the port, often positioning them to accrue wealth, siphon off state revenues, smuggle goods, and evade taxes in ways that benefit them or people connected to them," it added.
According to a report by Human Rights Watch, Tarek Bitar, the judge charged with investigating the explosion, is looking into several theories.
The judicial investigation's third theory, that the ignition was an intentional act, has gained prominence over the past year.
Several reports have suggested that far less ammonium nitrate exploded last August than initially thought. According to Reuters, an FBI report estimated that only 20% of the 2,755 tons of ammonium nitrate brought to the port in 2013 actually detonated. The HRW report also cited an August 2020 investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project in which three European intelligence sources estimated that the size of the blast was equivalent to as little as 700- 1,000 tons.
The theory goes that the ammonium nitrate was left at the port, where it could be siphoned off by factions in Lebanon.
In a December 2020 interview with CNN, Diab -- by then the country's caretaker Prime Minister -- called the timing "suspicious."
"There is something suspicious for (the report) to come in July 22 ... and then for it to blow up. There is something suspicious. Even though this is a seven-year issue. Seven years, for God's sake," Diab told CNN at the time. "There's something that's unexplainable, the timing of this."
Pope imposes deadline for Vatican to transfer assets to bank
Pope Francis has imposed an Oct. 1 deadline for all Holy See offices and Vatican-linked institutions to deposit their assets with the Vatican bank
ROME -- Pope Francis on Tuesday imposed an Oct. 1 deadline for all Holy See offices and Vatican-linked institutions to deposit their assets with the Vatican bank.
Francis’ decree follows his decision earlier this year to entrust management of all Vatican assets to one office — the patrimony office known as APSA — in a bid to end decades of mismanagement that culminated with a scandal over a 350 million-euro investment in a London property. Ten people, including former Vatican officials and external brokers, are on trial in the Vatican tribunal on finance-related charges related to the deal.
The Vatican’s economy ministry in July issued a new investment policy requiring all Vatican departments to transfer their assets and investments to APSA via its accounts at the Vatican bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, or IOR. No specific deadline was given, but the decree published Tuesday says all assets must be transferred by Sept. 30.
The need for a new decree imposing a fixed deadline and stressing there were no exceptions to the regulation suggests some offices or institutions were hoping to keep external accounts or investments.
The Vatican bank has long been mired in scandal but has spent the past decade cleaning up its books and ridding itself of its reputation as an offshore tax haven. Years of reform have slimmed down its client list to Vatican offices, employees, religious congregations and embassies.
It currently has some 5.1 billion euros in assets under management and reported 18 million euros in profits last year. The bank had previously donated 50 million euros a year of its profits to the pope to pay for the Vatican bureaucracy, but profits have fallen in recent years.
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