New world news from Time: Beirut Was Already Suffering. Then Came a Deadly Explosion

The electricity was out at Fatima Al Mahmoud’s Beirut home even before a colossal explosion ripped through the Lebanese capital late on Tuesday afternoon, killing at least 135 people, and wounding a further 5,000.

A senior editor at online city guide, the 22-year old had been working remotely due to COVID lockdowns when a blast she initially mistook for an earthquake rattled her family’s apartment. Moments later, a much larger explosion—so big it was felt 150 miles away in Cyprus—shattered her bedroom windows. Mahmoud dragged her 12-year-old brother to the relative safety of their corridor and in the 25 minutes before the generators kicked back in and restored her Internet connection, agonized over the safety of her other teenage brother. The panic and uncertainty brought to mind the summer of 2006, when war broke out between Lebanon and Israel. But the terror she experienced at that time, Mahmoud says, “was nothing compared to what I felt yesterday.”

Mahmoud, who managed to locate her brother and whose apartment sustained only minor damage, is among Beirut’s more fortunate residents. The blast, which Lebanese authorities say took place at a warehouse containing massive quantities of explosive materials at the capital’s port, has left Beirut’s downtown strewn with rubble and twisted rebar. It blew out windows at Beirut’s airport more than five miles from the blast site and rendered 200,000 people homeless according to Beirut’s governor Marwan Abboud, who estimated the cost of the damage at up to $5 billion. After a night during which radio presenters read out the names of the missing and injured as relatives scrambled to locate loved ones, rescue teams were on Wednesday still pulling wounded survivors from the rubble, and retrieving bodies from the water. The death toll could rise still further, with many still missing according to Lebanon’s health minister.

Lebanon Explosion
Hassan Ammar—APBeirut’s destroyed port seen after the massive explosion one day earlier, on Aug. 5
Marwan Tahtah—AFP via Getty ImagesWounded people walk through the debris in the heart of Beirut following a twin explosion that shook the capital on August 4, 2020.

The tragic impact of Tuesday’s blast is compounded by the pressure it will exert on Lebanon’s already devastated economy. Amid scrutiny over the government’s culpability, Lebanon’s already volatile political climate is expected to further heat. Beirut’s port, which houses the country’s only grain silos and receives 80% of its imports, was “basically the only still thing still keeping us going,” says Mahmoud. “It’s where the wheat is stored, the medicine is stored, the fuel is stored. Now all of that is gone.”

Lebanon’s economy had already been on the brink of collapse. Beginning last October millions of Lebanese protesters directed their anger at inefficient government services, corruption in Lebanon’s patronage-based political system, interference from foreign states like Iran, and the worst economic crisis since Lebanon emerged from its 15-year long war in 1990.

Government shutdowns in response to the global pandemic halted Lebanon’s protest movement, but they also added to its economic desperation. One in three Lebanese citizens is unemployed, the currency has lost 80% of its value against the dollar since last fall, and mains electricity is only available for a few hours each day. In a statement accompanying a July 28 report that showed that almost a million people in greater Beirut do not have money for sufficient food, Save the Children’s acting Country Director Jad Sakr said: “We will start seeing children dying from hunger before the end of the year.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab
Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesLebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab makes a speech on the massive blast in Beirut.

Tuesday’s blast will heap yet more pressure on Lebanon’s embattled government. Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in a statement that 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, which is typically used as an agricultural fertilizer, had been stored at a port warehouse for six years, “endangering the safety of citizens”. As for why it was there, “you will have to ask customs,” Lebanon’s Interior Minister Mohammed Fehmi told local reporters in Arabic on Tuesday. Asked why fireworks were stored near the ammonium nitrate—a reason local media has provided for how the explosives were ignited—the Director-General of Lebanese Customs Badri Daher shifted blame to Beirut’s port authorities.

Reports have linked the ammonium nitrate to a Moldova-flagged cargo ship called the Rhosus, which was carrying the same quantity of the explosive material to which Diab referred in his statement before Lebanese authorities impounded it in 2014. In a letter sent to Russian journalists in 2014, the ship’s Russian captain said the chemicals onboard effectively made the vessel a “floating bomb.” How and why they remained at the port for six years is still unclear, but Reuters reports that Lebanon’s government has agreed to place all Beirut port officials who have overseen storage and security since 2014 under house arrest.

Patrick Baz—AFP via Getty ImagesAn injured man sits next to a restaurant in the Mar Mikhael neighborhood of Beirut on August 5 in the aftermath of the massive explosion.

Buck-passing has long been a facet of Lebanon’s dysfunctional political system, but it also underscores the fact the Lebanese state does not exercise full control over the port, says Lina Khatib, who leads the Middle East and North Africa program at London-based think tank Chatham House. Hezbollah, a militant Iran-backed political faction close to Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun is known to have a hand in the running of Beirut’s Port.

In addition to being vital to the Lebanese economy, the port has long been a conduit of smuggling for multiple political groups in the country. Hezbollah, which the U.S. and some European countries has designated a terrorist organization, “has in the past used the port to smuggle explosive material into Lebanon for the manufacturing of ammunition,” Khatib says.

There is no evidence that was the intended purpose of the ammonium nitrate said to have caused Tuesday’s blast, and an initial investigation has reportedly found years of inaction and negligence over its storage. Still, Hezbollah’s oversized political role in Lebanon is one factor in the country’s economic crisis, which has been exacerbated by the White House’s maximum pressure campaign. That had made Lebanon’s European backers, such as France, wary of providing financial support in the recent past.

In the wake of the blast, offers of aid have come from countries including Qatar, France, Russia, Iran, Russia, and even Israel, which is still technically at war with Lebanon. France’s President Emmanuele Macron is set to meet Aoun on Thursday. But longer-term, Khatib says, “the only way forward is for the [International Monetary Fund] to support Lebanon.” Talks over a bailout stalled last month and the IMF has conditioned its assistance on Lebanon implementing a range of measures designed to increase transparency and financial accountability. Failing to undertake urgent reforms now, says Khatib, will push Lebanon to become a “failed state.”

For now, civil society groups have stepped in to fill the gaps left by the government. Mahmoud, the editor says that she and her friends set up an online volunteer group that gathers donations to help people struggling to buy food and other essential goods after the blast. An Instagram page called @open_houses_lebanon offers accommodation for the displaced in over 150 locations across Lebanon. On Twitter, others offered vacant rooms under the hashtag #ourhomesareopen.

Still, the immediate focus on helping those most urgently in need will not detract from public anger at the government, says Mahmoud. “People are promising that today we mourn our martyrs and tomorrow we go back to the streets,” she tells TIME. “I hope that’s true.”

New world news from Time: Judge Rules Meghan Markle’s Friends Can Remain Anonymous in Privacy Invasion Case Against British Newspaper

LONDON (AP) — A British judge ruled Wednesday that the Duchess of Sussex can keep the names of five close friends secret while she brings a privacy invasion lawsuit against a British newspaper.

High Court judge Mark Warby said “I have concluded that, for the time being at least, the court should grant the claimant the order that she seeks,” protecting the anonymity of friends who defended Meghan Markle in the pages of a U.S. magazine.

Meghan is suing Associated Newspapers Ltd., the publisher of the Mail on Sunday and the MailOnline website, over five articles that published portions of a handwritten letter she wrote to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, after her marriage to Prince Harry in 2018.

Meghan, 39, is seeking damages for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and data protection breaches.

The duchess asked the judge to prohibit publishing details of female friends who spoke anonymously to People magazine to condemn the alleged bullying she had received from the media. She argued that the friends were not parties to the case and had a “basic right to privacy.”

Associated Newspapers, which is contesting the claim, says it was Meghan’s friends who brought the letter into the public domain by describing it in the People article. One told the magazine that the duchess had written: “Dad, I’m so heartbroken. I love you. I have one father. Please stop victimizing me through the media so we can repair our relationship.”

Read more: Why a Royal Meghan Markle Matters

The publisher’s lawyers argue that the information about the letter disclosed in the article must have come “directly or indirectly” from Meghan.

Associated Newspapers’ attorney Antony White said during a court hearing last week that keeping the friends’ names secret “would be a heavy curtailment of the media’s and the defendant’s entitlement to report this case and the public’s right to know about it.”

But Meghan’s attorney, Justin Rusbrooke, argued that the duchess was unaware her friends were speaking to the magazine. They say the anonymous interviews were arranged by one of the five friends, who was concerned about the toll media criticism was taking on the duchess, pregnant at the time with her first child.

Rushbrooke argued that the court had a duty to “protect the identity of confidential journalistic sources.”

The women’s names are included in a confidential court document, but they have been identified in public only as A to E.

No date has been set for the full trial of the duchess’s invasion of privacy claim.

New world news from Time: Fireworks, Ammonium Nitrate Likely Fueled Beirut Explosion

Fireworks and ammonium nitrate appear to have been the fuel that ignited a massive explosion that rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut, experts and videos of the blast suggest.

The scale of the damage—from the epicenter of the explosion at the port of Beirut to the windows blown out kilometers (miles) away—resembles other blasts involving the chemical compound commonly used as an agricultural fertilizer.

But the compound itself typically doesn’t detonate on its own and requires another ignition source. That likely came from a fire that engulfed what initially appeared to be fireworks that were stored at the port.

Online videos of the disaster’s initial moments show sparks and lights inside the smoke rising from the blaze, just prior to the massive blast. That likely indicates that fireworks were involved, said Boaz Hayoun, owner of the Tamar Group, an Israeli firm that works closely with the Israeli government on safety and certification issues involving explosives.

Read more: Explosion in Beirut: Photos From a City Still Reeling From the Blast

“Before the big explosion, you can see in the center of the fire, you can see sparks, you can hear sounds like popcorn and you can hear whistles,” Hayoun told The Associated Press. “This is very specific behavior of fireworks, the visuals, the sounds and the transformation from a slow burn to a massive explosion.”

Jeffrey Lewis, a missile expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California, offered a similar assessment.

“It looks like an accident,” Lewis told the AP. “First, there was a fire preceding the explosion, which is not an attack. And some of the videos show munitions what I could call popcorning, exploding like ’pop, pop, pop, pop.’”

He added that “it’s very common to see fires detonate explosives.”

“If you have a fire raging next to something explosive, and you don’t put it out, it blows up,” he said.

The white cloud that accompanied the massive blast appeared to be a condensation cloud, often common in massive explosions in humid conditions that can follow the shock waves of an explosion, Lewis said.

Orange clouds also followed the blast, likely from toxic nitrogen dioxide gas that’s released after an explosion involving nitrates.

Experts typically determine the power of the blast by measuring the crater left behind, which appeared massive in aerial footage shot on Wednesday morning by the AP.

The Beirut blast, based on the crater and glass windows being blown out a distance away, exploded with the force equivalent to detonating at least 2.2 kilotons of TNT, said Sim Tack, an analyst and weapons expert at the Texas-based private intelligence firm Stratfor.

What initially started the fire at the port remains unclear. Beirut was sunny before Tuesday’s explosion, with a daily high of 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).

Lebanese Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi, in comments to a local TV station, made no mention of ignited fireworks but said it appeared the blast was caused by the detonation of more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored in a warehouse at the dock ever since it was confiscated from a cargo ship in 2014. That amount could cause the explosive force seen in the blast Tuesday, Tack said.

Based on the timeline and the size of the cargo, that ship could be the MV Rhosus. The ship was initially seized in Beirut in 2013 when it entered the port due to technical problems, according to lawyers involved in the case. It came from the nation of Georgia, and had been bound for Mozambique.

“Owing to the risks associated with retaining the ammonium nitrate on board the vessel, the port authorities discharged the cargo onto the port’s warehouses,” the lawyers wrote in a 2015 article published by “The vessel and cargo remain to date in port awaiting auctioning and/or proper disposal.”

It remains unclear what conditions the ammonium nitrate had been stored in—or why tons of an explosive chemical compound had been left there for years. Lebanon already was on the brink of collapse amid a severe economic crisis that has ignited mass protests in recent months.

The devastation surrounding the port resembled other ammonium nitrate explosions, such as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and a 1947 ship explosion that struck Texas City, Texas.

It also is unclear what conditions a possible shipment of fireworks at the port had been stored in. Fireworks are very common in Lebanon, used to celebrate religious occasions and weddings.

While military explosives are generally safe to transport, common “cheap pyrotechnics” made in China are often of very low quality and can ignite very easily, especially in hot weather, said Hayoun, the Israeli explosives expert.

The “end result,” he added is that “hundreds of tons of energetic materials” were detonated to create a explosion of this magnitude.

“It started definitely with fireworks,” he said.

New world news from Time: Beirut Surveys the Damage – and Searches for a Cause – After Explosion Kills at Least 100

(BEIRUT) — Residents of Beirut awoke to a scene of utter devastation on Wednesday, a day after a massive explosion at the port sent shock waves across the Lebanese capital, killing at least 100 people and wounding thousands.

Smoke was still rising from the port, where a towering grain silos had been shattered. Major downtown streets were littered with debris and damaged vehicles, and building facades were blown out. At hospitals across the city people had been waiting all night for news of loved ones who had gone missing or were wounded. Others posted requests for help online.

An official with the Lebanese Red Cross said at least 100 people were killed and more than 4,000 were wounded. The official, George Kettaneh, said the toll could rise further.

APTOPIX Lebanon Explosion
Hussein Malla–APA drone picture shows the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. A massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the city’s port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky.

It was unclear what caused the blast, which appeared to have been triggered by a fire and struck with the force of an earthquake. It was the most powerful explosion ever seen in the city, which was on the front lines of the 1975-1990 civil war and has endured conflicts with neighboring Israel and periodic bombings and terror attacks.

“L’Apocalypse,” read the front page of Lebanon’s French L’Orient Le Jour newspaper. Another paper, al-Akhbar, had a photo of a destroyed port with the words: “The Great Collapse.”

Lebanon was already on the brink of collapse amid a severe economic crisis that has ignited mass protests in recent months. Its hospitals are confronting a surge in coronavirus cases, and there were concerns the virus could spread further as people flooded into hospitals.

Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi told a local TV station that it appeared the blast was caused by the detonation of more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored in a warehouse at the dock ever since it was confiscated from a cargo ship in 2014.

Witnesses reported seeing an orange cloud like that which appears when toxic nitrogen dioxide gas is released after an explosion involving nitrates.

Videos showed what looked like a fire erupting nearby just before, and local TV stations reported that a fireworks warehouse was involved. The fire appeared to spread to a nearby building, triggering the explosion, sending up a mushroom cloud and generating a shock wave.

“It was a real horror show. I haven’t seen anything like that since the days of the (civil) war,” said Marwan Ramadan, who was about 500 meters (yards) from the port and was knocked off his feet by the force of the explosion.

The blast destroyed numerous apartment buildings, potentially leaving large numbers of people homeless at a time when many Lebanese have lost their jobs and seen their savings evaporate because of a currency crisis. The explosion also raises concerns about how Lebanon will continue to import nearly all of its vital goods with its main port devastated.

There is also the issue of food security in Lebanon, a tiny country already hosting over 1 million Syrians amid that country’s yearslong war.

The port’s major grain silo is run by the Lebanese Ministry of Economy and Trade. Drone footage shot Wednesday by The Associated Press showed that blast tore open those grain silos, dumping their contents into the debris and earth thrown up by the blast. Some 80% of Lebanon’s wheat supply is imported, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Estimates suggest some 85% of the country’s grain was stored at the now-destroyed silos.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency quoted the Raoul Nehme, the minister of economy and trade, as saying that all the wheat stored at the facility had been “contaminated” and couldn’t be used. However, he insisted Lebanon had enough wheat for its immediate needs.

Nehme said Lebanon also would import more wheat for its needs.

The tiny Mediterranean nation’s economic crisis is rooted in decades of systemic corruption and poor governance by the political class that has ruled the country since the end of the civil war. Lebanese have held mass protests calling for sweeping political change since last autumn but few of their demands have been met as the economic situation has steadily worsened.


Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Joseph Krauss in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

New world news from Time: Australian State of Victoria Imposes Curfew and Closes Most Stores and Factories as It Hits New Coronavirus Record

Victoria has reported a record daily coronavirus case total as Australia’s second-most populous state enters its strictest lockdown since the pandemic began.

The state had 725 new cases in the past 24 hours, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday. Fifteen people died in that period.

The resurgence in Victoria, which accounts for almost a quarter of Australia’s GDP, shows no sign of abating and threatens to overwhelm an economic recovery in other parts of the nation. The state’s second lockdown has triggered some of the strictest social-distancing enforcement measures in the western world, and is a grim warning to the U.S. and some European nations that are struggling to flatten their own pandemic curves.

Victoria will this week shut down large parts of its retail and manufacturing sectors for six weeks across Melbourne.

Construction firms must radically reduce the number of workers on site across the city, while production at meatworks statewide will be cut by a third. Essential services such as banks, supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations will remain open.

The effective isolation of the state and sporadic outbreaks in neighboring New South Wales are likely to start eroding confidence in the rest of Australia, which had been in the vanguard of nations enjoying early success in quashing the spread of the virus.

Melbourne’s outbreak has shown no signs of abating, three weeks after the city’s 5 million residents were ordered to stay at home except for essential work, exercise, medical care or provisions. The Victoria government has now imposed an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew in the metropolitan area and widened lockdown measures across the entire state.

The state said Tuesday that anyone flouting isolation rules will face an on-the-spot fine of as much as A$5,000 ($3,560).

“I’m so grateful and so proud to think Victorians are dealing with this challenge, a bigger challenge than perhaps we have ever faced,” Andrews said Tuesday.

New South Wales, a state which borders Victoria, is managing to contain the outbreak and recorded 12 new cases on Tuesday. Still, on Tuesday, Queensland state announced it would close its borders to all travelers from New South Wales and the Australia Capital Territory from Saturday.

New world news from Time: Police in Malaysia Raid Al Jazeera Offices After Documentary on Treatment of Migrant Workers

(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) — Malaysian police raided the office of news broadcaster Al Jazeera and two local TV stations on Tuesday, seizing computers as part of an investigation into a documentary on undocumented migrants that enraged the government.

Al Jazeera, a Qatari-state owned broadcaster, said in a statement that police seized two computers during the raid, which it called a “troubling escalation” in a government crackdown on media freedom. It urged Malaysian authorities to cease the criminal investigation.

Police opened an investigation last month into the Al Jazeera documentary on the treatment of undocumented migrants after officials complained it was inaccurate and biased. Seven Al Jazeera staff members have been grilled by police as part of the probe for alleged sedition, defamation and violating the Communications and Multimedia Act.

Police obtained court warrants to search the offices of Al Jazeera as well as local broadcasters Astro and Unifitv, criminal investigation chief Huzir Mohamed said in a statement. The two local TV stations had reportedly aired the video.

Huzir said the raids were conducted jointly with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, which is also investigating the stations.

He said police seized computers which will be sent for further analysis and took statements from witnesses during the raids. “No individual or entity will be spared from action if they have violated the law,” he said.

Al Jazeera said the raid was “an attack on press freedom as a whole” and urged Malaysian authorities to cease the criminal investigation.

“Conducting a raid on our office and seizing computers is a troubling escalation in the authorities’ crackdown on media freedom and shows the lengths they are prepared to take to try to intimidate journalists,” said Giles Trendle, managing director of Al Jazeera English.

“Al Jazeera stands by our journalists and we stand by our reporting. Our staff did their jobs and they’ve got nothing to answer for or apologize for. Journalism is not a crime,” he said.

The documentary, titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” investigated undocumented immigrants it said were at risk during the coronavirus pandemic. More than 2,000 migrant workers were arrested during raids in areas in Kuala Lumpur that were placed under tight virus lockdowns.

Malaysian authorities also detained a Bangladeshi man interviewed in the documentary after revoking his work permit, and said they will deport him for criticizing the government over its handling of undocumented migrants.

“The authorities’ relentless pursuit of Al Jazeera seems to be driven by a desire to punish journalists who aired Malaysia’s dirty laundry rather than a good faith application of the law,” said Matthew Bugher, head of the Asia program of British-based rights group ARTICLE 19.

He said Malaysia should investigate the rights violations shown in the documentary instead of targeting the filmmakers.

Rights activists have voiced concern over a clampdown on freedom of speech and media independence under new Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who took power in March.

Astro was recently fined for airing an Al Jazeera documentary in 2015 about the 2006 murder of a Mongolian woman that allegedly contained “offensive content.”

Popular online news portal Malaysiakini and its editor face rare contempt proceedings from the attorney general over comments posted by readers against the judiciary. Police also questioned an activist about a social media post alleging mistreatment of refugees at immigration detention centers.

A journalist from the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post was also questioned earlier about her reporting on migrant arrests.

New world news from Time: North Korea Is Expanding Its Nuclear Arsenal and Ballistic Missile Capability Despite Sanctions, U.N. Report Says

(UNITED NATIONS) — U.N. experts say North Korea is flouting U.N. sanctions by expanding its nuclear arsenal and ballistic missile program and by exporting coal and illegally importing refined petroleum products in excess of its annual quota.

The experts said in key sections of a report obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press that North Korea has also evaded sanctions through “targeted” cyber attacks against officials of countries on the U.N. Security Council and on members of its expert panel. They did not elaborate or identify which of the 15 council nations were targeted.

In the report to the Security Council, the experts said North Korea has maintained its nuclear facilities and continues to produce fissile material, including highly enriched uranium, that can be used in nuclear weapons. It has also continued “to develop infrastructure and capacity for its ballistic missile program” and moved ahead on construction of an experimental light water reactor, they said.

The independent panel quoted several unidentified countries as saying North Korea has “probably” developed miniaturized nuclear weapons that can fit into its ballistic missiles.

One unnamed country says Pyongyang may seek to further develop “miniaturization” of components “in order to allow incorporation of technological improvements … or, potentially, to develop multiple warhead systems,” the experts said.

The panel’s report was issued as U.S. efforts to get North Korea to rein in its nuclear and ballistic missile programs remain stalled, with little prospect of a new summit between President Donald Trump and Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong Un before the U.S. presidential election in November.

Trump and Kim have met three times since embarking on high-stakes nuclear diplomacy in 2018, beginning with their meeting in Singapore where they issued vague vows for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without describing when and how it would occur. But negotiations have faltered since their second summit in February 2019, where the Americans rejected North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capability.

Last week, Kim said his country’s hard-won nuclear weapons were a solid security guarantee and a “reliable, effective” deterrent that could prevent a second Korean War.

The report was also issued amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Kim reaffirmed last month that North Korea has not has a single case of the coronavirus though outsiders widely doubt the country escaped the pandemic entirely.

U.N. sanctions, initially imposed after North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, are not supposed to hurt the North Korean people. The experts said “there can be little doubt, however, that they have had negative effects.”

It is difficult to separate the adverse consequences from other external and internal factors that have been compounded by measures taken in response to COVID-19, the panel said, adding that the measures have constrained the ability of the U.N. and other organizations to monitor the humanitarian situation in the country. The experts said they have accelerated COVID-19-related requests for humanitarian exemptions.

In response to the pandemic, the experts said North Korea closed its borders and reduced but never fully halted its maritime shipments.

Shipments have now resumed and the panel said foreign-flagged tankers, including many that it identified in its March report, have continued to make illicit deliveries of refined petroleum products to North Korea through ship-to-ship transfers.

The panel said 43 countries sent a report to the panel “containing imagery, data and calculations covering the period from Jan. 1 to May 30, 2020.” The experts said the unnamed countries estimated that refined petroleum products delivered to North Korea during that period “already far exceeded” the annual ceiling of 500,000 barrels set by the Security Council for 2020.

“China and the Russian Federation responded that the report was based on assumptions and estimations, and the information and evidence was insufficient to conclude that the ceiling had been exceeded,” the panel said. “The United States responded that the evidence was robust in quality and quantity and sufficient.”

The experts said North Korea and foreign-flagged vessels and their owners “continued elaborate evasion practices.”

Though North Korea suspended coal exports between late January and early March because of the pandemic, those exports have resumed, the experts said, And satellite imagery and information provided by an unnamed U.N. member nation show that multiple North Korean vessels continued to carry out ship-to-ship transfers of coal “in waters of another member state,” reportedly identified as neighboring China, they said.

North Korea has also continued to earn income from the illicit transfer of fishing rights, the panel said.

The experts said they are also continuing investigations into North Korea’s access to international banking channels “including through its own bank representatives, joint ventures, shell companies and the use of virtual assets” — and into how Pyongyang converts virtual assets like bitcoin into government-issued currency.

In August 2019, the panel said North Korean cyber experts had illegally raised money for the country’s weapons of mass destruction programs “with total proceeds to date estimated at up to $2 billion.”

New world news from Time: Explosion in Beirut: Photos From a City Still Reeling From the Blast

A massive explosion rocked the capital city of Lebanon on Tuesday, causing widespread destruction and loss of life. So far, at least 60 people were killed in the blast and over 3,000 others were injured, according to the Associated Press.

As the dust settled around Beirut’s port, believed to be the site of the explosion, photographers captured a city now covered in rubble and broken glass. The blast was so powerful that it overturned cars, damaged buildings and buried victims, the AP reported.

The cause of the explosion is as yet unknown, but the chief of Lebanese General Security, Abbas Ibrahim, said that it could have been confiscated explosive material that was being stored at the port, the AP reported.

The massive explosion shook a country already grabbling with an extended economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. The AP reports that Beirut hospitals were quickly overwhelmed.

Graphic content could be disturbing to some readers.

Bilal Jawich—Xinhua/Sipa USAPink smoke rises following the explosion.
AFP/Getty ImagesA picture shows the scene of the explosion near the the port.
Massive Explosion Near Port Area Of Beirut
Daniel Carde—Getty ImagesA car is damaged after the explosion.
Massive explosion at Beirut's port
Marwan Naamani—picture-allianceThe facade of a building is shattered following a massive explosion in Beirut’s port.
AFP/Getty ImagesLebanese army soldiers stand while a helicopter puts out a fire at the scene of the explosion.
Massive Explosion Near Port Area Of Beirut
Daniel Carde—Getty ImagesAn injured woman lies on the sidewalk aided by bystanders after the explosion.
Large explosion in harbor area rocks Beirut, Lebanon - 04 Aug 2020
Nabil Mounzer—EPA-EFE/ShutterstockA view of damages at a house in the Burj Abu Haidar area after the explosion.
Lebanon Explosion
Hassan Ammar—APWounded people evacuate after a massive explosion in Beirut.
Marwan Tahtah—AFP/Getty ImagesA wounded woman helps another injured person get into the backseat of a car following the twin explosion.
Massive Explosion Near Port Area Of Beirut
Daniel Carde—Getty ImagesAn elderly woman is helped while walking through debris after the explosion.
Lebanon Explosion
Hussein Malla—APAn injured man waits for help at the scene of the explosion.

New world news from Time: Massive Explosion in Beirut Triggers Widespread Destruction and Injuries

(BEIRUT) — A massive explosion shook Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Tuesday wounding a number people and causing widespread damage.

The afternoon blast shook several parts of the capital and thick smoke billowed from the city center. Residents reported windows being blown out and a false ceilings dropping.

The explosion appeared to be centered around Beirut’s port and caused wide scale destruction and shattered windows miles away.

An Associated Press photographer near Beirut’s port witnessed people wounded on the ground and widespread destruction in central Beirut.

Some local TV stations reported the blast was at Beirut’s port inside an area where firecrackers were stored.

New world news from Time: Iran Abducted California-Based Man Staying in Dubai, According to His Family

(DUBAI, United Arab Emirates) — A California-based member of an Iranian militant opposition group in exile was abducted by Iran while staying in Dubai, his family said Tuesday.

The suspected cross-border abduction of Jamshid Sharmahd appears corroborated by mobile phone location data, shared by his family with The Associated Press, that suggests he was taken to neighboring Oman before heading to Iran.

Iran hasn’t said how it detained Sharmahd, though the announcement came against the backdrop of covert actions conducted by Iran amid heightened tensions with the U.S. over Tehran’s collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.

Iran accuses Sharmahd, 65, of Glendora, California of planning a 2008 attack on a mosque that killed 14 people and wounded over 200 others, as well as plotting other assaults through the little-known Kingdom Assembly of Iran and its Tondar militant wing. It aired an interview of him on state television — footage that resembled many other suspected coerced confessions broadcast by the Iranian government in the last decade.

His family, however, insists Sharmahd only served as a spokesman for the group and had nothing to do with any attacks in Iran. Sharmahd, who supports restoring Iran’s monarchy that was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, already had been targeted in an apparent Iranian assassination plot on U.S. soil in 2009.

“We’re seeking support from any democratic country, any free country,” his son Shayan Sharmahd told the AP. “It is a violation of human rights. You can’t just pick someone up in a third country and drag them into your country.”

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry has not elaborated on how it detained the elder Sharmahd, other than to deny he was arrested in Tajikistan. The ministry and Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Sharmahd had been in Dubai, trying to travel to India for a business deal involving his software company, his son said. He was hoping to get a connecting flight despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic disrupting global travel.

Sharmahd’s family received the last message from him on July 28. After that, he no longer responded to their calls and messages, his son said. Telephone location data showed his mobile phone that day at the Premier Inn Dubai International Airport Hotel, where he had been staying.

It’s unclear how the abduction happened. A hotel operator said Sharmahd had checked out July 29. Tracking data showed Sharmahd’s mobile phone traveled south from Dubai to the city of Al Ain on July 29, crossing the border into Oman and staying overnight near an Islamic school in the border city of al-Buraimi.

On July 30, tracking data showed the mobile phone traveled to the Omani port city of Sohar, where the signal stopped.

Two days later, on Saturday, Iran announced it had captured Sharmahd in a “complex operation.” The Intelligence Ministry published a photograph of him blindfolded.

His son said he believed that in the state TV footage, Sharmahd hurriedly read whatever Iran wanted him to say.

“Imagine your own father being tied up one day on television and you see that,” Shayan Sharmahd said.

Western officials believe Iran runs intelligence operations in Dubai and keeps tabs on the hundreds of thousands of Iranians living in the city-state. Iran is suspected of kidnapping and later killing British-Iranian national Abbas Yazdi in Dubai in 2013, though Tehran has denied involvement.

It isn’t just Iran that maintains a presence in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, home to some 5,000 U.S. troops and the U.S. Navy’s busiest port of call outside of America. The U.S. State Department runs its Iran Regional Presence Office in Dubai, where diplomats monitor Iranian media reports and talk to Iranians.

Dubai’s hotels long have been targeted by intelligence operatives, such as in the suspected 2010 assassination by the Israeli Mossad of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Dubai and the rest of the UAE have since invested even more in an elaborate surveillance network.

Dubai police and officials, as well as federal officials in Abu Dhabi and the Omani Embassy in Washington, did not respond to requests for comment.

The UAE has long been trying to de-escalate tensions with Iran after President Donald Trump’s maximum pressure campaign saw him pull out of the nuclear deal. On Sunday, Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan held a videoconference with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

However, over the last year, a series of escalating incidents have shaken the wider Mideast, leading to a U.S. drone strike in January that killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad and an Iranian ballistic missile attack that injured dozens of American soldiers in Iraq. Also, there have been explosions on oil tankers off the Emirati coast that the U.S. Navy has blamed on Iranian limpet mines.

Last month, an oil tanker seized by the UAE after being suspected of smuggling Iranian crude oil was hijacked, likely by Iran. In June, Iran sentenced to death another opposition journalist living in Paris it detained under unclear circumstances.

For now, Sharmahd’s family said they contacted the government in Germany, where he holds citizenship, and the U.S. government as he’s lived for years in America and was on track for citizenship after the 2009 assassination plot.

The German Embassy in Tehran has asked Iranian authorities for consular access, according to the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, hoping to understand how Sharmahd was arrested. However, Iran doesn’t allow consular access for its dual nationals, considering them exclusively Iranian citizens.

The State Department, which mistakenly referred to Sharmahd in an earlier report as an American citizen, acknowledged his arrest and said Iran “has a long history of detaining Iranians and foreign nationals on spurious charges.”

While Iran has yet to say what charges Sharmahd faces, others detained over the 2008 bombing have been convicted and executed. Sharmahd’s son said his father suffers from Parkinson’s disease, as well as diabetes and heart trouble that require medication and careful monitoring.

“He’s very much at risk,” his son said. “All of us are extremely concerned.”


Associated Press writer Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.