Donald Trump has been criticised for being “wildly irresponsible” after he described the massive explosion that hit Beirut on Tuesday as an “attack” from “a bomb of some kind”, despite no clear evidence so far that the blast was intentional.
Speaking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday, the US president contradicted Lebanese officials and said the blast “looks like a terrible attack”.
“The United States stands ready to assist Lebanon,” Trump said.
He said US military officials “seem to think it was an attack. It was a bomb of some kind.”
“It would seem like it, based on the explosion. I met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel that it was,” Trump continued.
“This was not some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of event.”
US Defence Department officials later contradicted Trump’s claims, telling CNN they did not know what the president was talking about.
They clarified that initial information did not appear to show that the explosion was an attack.
Lebanese officials have said the blast was likely caused by thousands of tonnes of unsecured ammonium nitrate that had been stored at a warehouse for several years.
Former Trump aide Brett McGurk, who also served under President Obama and President George W Bush, said the president’s remarks were “wildly irresponsible”.
“It’s wildly irresponsible for a president to stand at the [White House] podium and spitball about an international incident like this as hundreds of casualties are still missing or being treated,” he said on Twitter.
Former Pentagon special counsel Ryan Goodman also said Trump was “hugely irresponsible” if there was no clear evidence to suggest the blast was an attack.
At least 100 people have been killed and 4,000 are injured after a large explosion rocked the Lebanese capital Beirut as images showed a giant column of smoke rising over the city.
The blast occurred in the city’s port area, where there were warehouses housing explosives.
Lebanese president Michel Aoun said that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures.
Ammonium nitrate is one of the world’s most widely used fertilisers and is also one of the main components in explosives.