The Lebanese Army announced this week that it has seized over 28 tons of ammonium nitrate during a raid at a gas station in Arsal in the Bekaa region, which is near the border with Syria. The fertilizer can be used in bomb-making, and the seizure comes after hundreds of tons of the same substance caused the August 2020 blast which killed 200 people and decimated whole neighborhoods in Beirut.
"Following information about the presence of ammonium nitrate in the town of Arsal, on October 4, an army patrol and military intelligence raided a gas station in the town, and seized 28,275 kilogrammes of ammonium nitrate," Lebanon's army announced in a Tuesday statement.
Three Syrian men and a Lebanese citizen were arrested for improper storage, and possible charges that they skirted proper permits from the Economy Ministry - though it remains that given the area it was found is also a farming community, it could be that it was legitimately meant to be used as fertilizer. Some reports said it was being stored in a truck at the gas station.
According to Middle East news source The National, "The quantities seized on Monday sparked fears among Lebanese that dangerous chemicals continue to be improperly stored, putting the country at risk of another incident at a time of economic crisis."
Currently Lebanese authorities are testing it the substance to see its concentration, according to the army statement: "It added that the bags storing the material indicated a nitrogen content of 26 per cent. The Army sent samples of the seized substance to check the percentage of nitrogen it contains."
Arsal is a town that has been under the authorities' microscope ever since the height of the Syrian war. "Arsal has become notorious in Lebanon after extremists from Syria briefly took over the small border town and engaged in deadly clashes with the Lebanese army in 2014," The National noted.
"Days of fighting between the army, Al Nusra Front and ISIS killed at least 19 soldiers, dozens of civilians and 60 militants," the report said. "Hezbollah is also active on Lebanon’s porous border with Syria."
Various conspiracy theories being floated as to who is ultimately to blame for the Aug.4 2020 Beirut port explosion range from Hezbollah involvement, to blame placed on the Iranians, to Syria's Assad - with some speculating the Israelis were behind it. However, consensus is that it was an accident after years of horrible neglect by government oversight authorities allowed unsafe and unstable amounts of ammonium nitrate to sit in a port warehouse, the immense blast was likely triggered when maintenance and wielding work ignited the substance.