US accuses Hezbollah of ammonium nitrate stockpiles in Europe

Washington (AFP) –


The United States has accused Hezbollah of stockpiling ammonium nitrate in several European countries, suggesting a possible link between the Lebanese Shiite movement and the recent massive explosion in Beirut.

"Since 2012, Hezbollah has established caches of ammonium nitrate throughout Europe by transporting first aid kits whose cold packs contain the substance," US counterterrorism coordinator Nathan Sales said.

"Those sorts of caches have been found in a number of countries, including the UK, Greece, France, Italy, and a number of others," he said in a conference transcript sent to AFP on Friday.

"I can also reveal that significant ammonium nitrate caches have been discovered or destroyed in France, Greece, and Italy... And as we all saw in the Port of Beirut explosion, ammonium nitrate is a truly dangerous substance."

The August 4 blast in Beirut killed more than 190 people, wounded thousands and ripped through large parts of the Lebanese capital.

The Hezbollah movement, which is designated by the US as a terrorist group, exerts influence over the port, multiple sources have confirmed to AFP.

The blast was caused by the explosion of tonnes of ammonium nitrate -- a chemical compound commonly used as a fertilizer. It was stored for years in a port warehouse.

"We know that Hezbollah has stored massive amounts of ammonium nitrate across Europe. We also know from what we saw in Beirut the truly destructive power of ammonium nitrate," Sales said.

"It's capable of inflicting mass destruction when used as an explosive. That is why the United States has called for a full, open, and transparent and thorough investigation of the explosion in Beirut."