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Ex-Lebanon army chief summoned for questioning as blast probe resumes

Lebanese former army chief, General Jean Kahwaji in Beirut on November 22, 2008 [ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images]
Lebanese former army chief, General Jean Kahwaji in Beirut on November 22, 2008 [ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images]

A former Lebanese army chief was summoned for questioning in the investigation into the cause of the Beirut blast yesterday, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

General Jean Kahwaji's summons comes as investigating judge Fadi Sawwan resumes the probe after a seven-week hiatus.

The former army general will be questioned as a witness, according to AP. Other officials, who have not yet been named, will be questioned alongside Kahwaji.

The general headed the Lebanese army during the period when letters on what to do with the ammonium nitrate, which went on to cause the 4 August Beirut blast, were exchanged between the military and the customs department.

In a letter from April 2016, the army said it did not need the material and said it should be removed from the capital's port at the expense of the shipowner who brought it to Lebanon, AP reported.

President Michel Aoun and caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, as well as former political leaders, were also aware the ammonium nitrate was stored in the port but had failed to get the substance removed.

WATCH: 6 months from the Beirut blast, there's still no hope of justice

On 4 August 2020, the highly explosive cache ignited and exploded, destroying large parts of Beirut.

The explosion, which was felt as far away as Cyprus, left 200 dead, 6,500 injured and more than 300,000 homeless.

The probe was paused on 17 December after two former ministers indicted in the investigation requested Sawwan be replaced over claims he had violated legal and constitutional procedures by summoning them for questioning.

Diab and one other former minister were also indicted on charges of criminal negligence leading to the deaths of hundreds of people.

None of the four turned up for questioning following the charges.

The resumption of the probe, which political leaders promised in August would only take five days, is likely to ease concerns by members of the public who feared the investigation might end.

It comes as Lebanon began easing a 25-day nationwide lockdown imposed to deal with a spike in coronavirus cases following a relatively rule-free Christmas and New Year period.

READ: 'Second Beirut bomb' removed from port by German firm

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