A suicide bomber committed the attack that killed eight people in a bus transporting Israeli tourists at a Bulgarian airport, the country's interior minister said on Thursday, and Israel accused Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants of responsibility.
“We have established a person who was a suicide bomber in this attack. This person had a fake driving licence from the United States,” Interior Minister Tsvetanov told reporters at the airport of Burgas, a city on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast.
Tsvetanov said special forces had managed to obtain DNA samples from the fingers of the bomber and were now checking databases in an attempt to identify him.
He said Bulgarian security services had received no indications of a pending terrorist attack in the Balkan country.
Video surveillance in front of the airport and the investigation showed the bomber could not be distinguished among arriving Israeli tourists. “He looked like everybody else – a normal person with Bermuda shorts and a backpack,” he said.
The interior ministry said the eight dead included the Bulgarian driver of the bus and the bomber.
About 30 lightly injured Israeli tourists will be flown back to Israel in the coming hours, Tsvetanov said.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the Tehran-backed Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah carried out the bombing. “The immediate executors are Hezbollah people, who of course have constant Iranian sponsorship,” Barak told Israel Radio.
The blast occurred on the 18th anniversary of a bomb attack at the headquarters of Argentina’s main Jewish organisation that killed 85 people and the Argentine government blamed on Iran, which denied responsibility.
The tourists had arrived in Bulgaria on a charter flight from Israel and were on the bus in the airport car park when the blast tore through the double-decker. Body parts were strewn across the ground and mangled metal hung from the bus’s ripped roof.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran was behind the attack and that “Israel will react powerfully against Iranian terror.” There was no immediate Iranian reaction to the Israeli accusation.
Israeli officials had previously said that Bulgaria, a popular holiday destination for Israeli tourists, was vulnerable to attack by Islamist militants who could infiltrate via Turkey.
Israeli diplomats have been targeted in several countries in recent months by bombers who Israel said struck on behalf of Iran.
Although Tehran has denied involvement, some analysts believe it is trying to avenge the assassinations of several scientists from its nuclear programme that the Iranians have blamed on Israel and its Western allies.
Israel and Western powers fear Iran is working towards a nuclear bomb but it says its uranium enrichment work is strictly for peaceful ends. Both Israel and the United States have not ruled out military action against Iranian nuclear facilities. DM
Photo: Smoke is seen after a blast at Bulgaria’s Burgas airport July 18, 2012. Three people were killed and over 20 injured by an explosion on a bus carrying Israeli tourists outside the airport of the coastal city of Burgas on Wednesday, Bulgarian authorities said. The mayor of the city, on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, said the bus was carrying Israeli tourists, but police could not immediately confirm their nationality. Police said several other buses at the site had been damaged. REUTERS/Bulphoto Agency
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