adidas copa mundials Hezbollah Is Blamed in Attack on Israeli Tourist Bus in Bulgaria
BURGAS, Bulgaria American officials on Thursday identified the suicide bomber responsible for a deadly attack on Israeli vacationers here as a member of a Hezbollah cell that was operating in Bulgaria and looking for such targets, corroborating Israel’s assertions and making the bombing a new source of tension with Iran.
One senior American official said the current American intelligence assessment was that the bomber, who struck Wednesday, killing five Israelis, had been “acting under broad guidance” to hit Israeli targets when opportunities presented themselves, and that the guidance had been given to Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group, by Iran, its primary sponsor. Two other American officials confirmed that Hezbollah was behind the bombing, but declined to provide additional details.
The attacks, the official said, were in retaliation for the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, for which Iran has blamed Israeli agents an accusation that Israel has neither confirmed nor denied. “This was tit for tat,” said the American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still under way.
The bombing comes amid heightened tensions over Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes but Israel and the West say is a cover for developing weapons. The United States and Europe imposed sanctions this month aimed at crippling Iran’s vital oil industry, while Iran has sworn to exact revenge for the assassinations, as well as for cyberattacks on its nuclear industry.
While the Burgas attack fit the modus operandi of Hezbollah, the Israeli official said, it was not clear whether the bomber intended to blow himself up or had suffered what the official called a “work accident,” adding, “We will never know.”
The bomber had a fake Michigan driver’s license, but there are no indications that he had any connection to the United States, the American official said, adding that there were no details yet about the bomber like his name or nationality. He also declined to describe what specific intelligence intercepted communications, analysis of the bomber’s body parts or other details that led analysts to conclude that the bomber belonged to Hezbollah.
“This looks like he was hanging out for a local target, and when this popped up he jumped on it,” the official said, referring to a bus carrying Israeli tourists outside the airport in Burgas.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a news conference on Thursday in Jerusalem that the attack in Burgas was carried out by “Hezbollah, the long arm of Iran.”
Iranian officials condemned the attack and all acts of terrorism. “Terrorism endangers the lives of innocents,” said a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Ramin Mehmanparast, according to Iran’s state Arabic language television channel, Al Alam.
But it is his oddly bulky, oversized backpack that, in terrible hindsight,
stands out the most. This bag, investigators believe, contained the bomb that the man is suspected of detonating next to a bus outside the airport, killing the five Israeli tourists, a Bulgarian bus driver and himself in a fireball that upended this city on the Black Sea.
The suicide attack, the country’s first, sent police and intelligence officers from Bulgaria, Israel and the United States racing to identify the bomber and to look for possible accomplices and evidence that would connect him to Hezbollah or Iran.
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“We’re not pointing the finger in any direction until we know what happened and complete our investigation,” Nickolay Mladenov, Bulgaria’s foreign minister, said in an interview. He was speaking in front of the airport on Thursday, where three giant flags, one for Bulgaria, one for Burgas and one for the European Union, flew at half staff.
Israeli officials were swift to blame Iran on Wednesday in the immediate aftermath of the bombing, and Mr. Netanyahu did not let up on Thursday. “The time has come for all countries that know the truth to speak it,” he said at the news conference. “Iran is the one behind the wave of terror. Iran is the No. 1 exporter of terror in the world.”
Mr. determined that the driver’s license was a fake and that the person described on the card did not exist. He said the Bulgarian government had spoken with John O. Brennan, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, overnight.
Speaking at the Central Synagogue in Sofia, home to most of Bulgaria’s 5,000 Jews, James Warlick, the United States ambassador, expressed his “outrage and horror at the terrorist incident that happened yesterday in Burgas.”
The speaker of Iran’s Parliament, Ali Larijani, criticized the United States for not condemning the bombing in Damascus on Wednesday that struck at President Bashar al Assad’s inner circle, killing three senior defense officials. “By not condemning the assassination in Syria, the Americans show that they believe in good assassinations and bad assassinations,” he said, according to the Fars news agency.
An Israeli Defense Force plane carried 33 of the wounded back to Israel from Burgas on Thursday morning, dispersing passengers to hospitals around the country, a military spokesman in Jerusalem said. The dead were flown back Thursday evening after a ceremony at the airport, which had reopened several hours earlier.
Nicholas Kulish reported from Burgas, and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Reporting was contributed by Matthew Brunwasser from Burgas, Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem, Thomas Erdbrink from Tehran, and Boryana Dzhambazova from Paris.