Bulgarian government: Hezbollah involved in Burgas terror attack

06 Feb 2013

Bulgaria's interior minister on Tuesday blamed the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah for the deadly bomb attack at the Burgas airport last July, in which six people died. Tsvetan Tsvetanov told reporters in Sofia that the findings of an investigation had established that two suspects in the attack were members of the Lebanese terror group. Tsvetanov declared: "There is data showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects."

On 18 July 2012, a bomb ripped through a bus in the coastal resort city of Burgas that was carrying Israeli tourists from the airport to their hotel.  The attack was carried out by a bomber who died at the scene, but police and Bulgarian officials said he was backed by a Hezbollah cell that included two suspects traveling on Australian and Canadian passports. The group is believed to have arrived in Black Sea coast town a month before the bombing.

Israel had immediately blamed the attack on Iran and Hezbollah, but both denied any involvement. Hezbollah, which is supported and financed by Tehran and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

US officials reiterated Washington's desire for the European Union to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization. The United States and Israel have accused Iran's elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, of ordering a string of overseas terrorist attacks aimed at American and Israeli targets over the past two years, including in India, Thailand and Georgia.

However, Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, said only that she “takes note of the results of the investigation.” And the EU's top counter-terrorism official, Gilles de Kerchove, told a Belgian news agency that being behind a terrorist attack did not automatically result in a terrorist designation. “It's not only the legal requirement you have to take into consideration, it is also a political assessment of the context and the timing,” de Kerchove said.

While the refusal to designate Hezbollah a terrorist group is widespread in Europe, France is considered to be a major impediment to any changes.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Prime Minister's Office told relatives of the Burgas attack victims that those responsible for the killings would eventually "pay the price." Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement that the head of Israel's counter-terrorism bureau had told the victims' families in his name that "Israel will do everything so that those responsible for the crime will pay the price."