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Bulgaria blames Hezbollah

February 5, 2013

Bulgaria says it has traced last July's bus bombing that killed five Israelis in a Black Sea resort to two persons with links to the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. Lebanon says it's ready to cooperate with investigators.

Security staff look at a damaged bus that carried Israeli tourists after it was hit by a bomb explosion on July 18 at Burgas Airport, Bulgaria 19 July 2012. epa03311014 EPA/NIKOLAY DONCHEV +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said Tuesday that data from the probe into the bus bombing at Burgas Airport had shown that two of three suspects identified had passports from Canada and Australia and "belonged to the military wing of Hezbollah."

The pair had lived in Lebanon since 2006 and 2010, Tsvetanov said, and together with the third person had used faked US Michigan state drivers' licenses printed in Lebanon to rent rooms and cars in the weeks before the July 18 attack in the resort popular with visiting Israeli tourists.

"There is data showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects," said Tsvetanov after a sitting of Bulgaria's national security council on Tuesday.

The bombing also killed the Bulgarian bus driver and the bomber. Some 30 people were wounded. No one has yet been arrested.

Bulgaria lays blame

Last July, Israel immediately blamed Iran and what it called its "terrorist proxy" Hezbollah, but until Tuesday Bulgaria had stopped short of pointing the finger at anyone for the attack.

There was no immediate reaction from Hezbollah on Tuesday, but Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Lebanon was ready to cooperate in investigations to "shed light on the circumstances" of the attack. Iran has long denied responsibility.

Bulgaria says Hezbollah behing bombing

Reacting on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attack in Burgas happened within an EU country and he hoped that the European Union would draw "conclusions" about the "true character of Hezbollah."

Mixed treatment of Hezbollah

While the Netherlands and Britain have terrorist designations for Hezbollah, other EU member nations have resisted past US and Israeli pressure to sanction the movement.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Tuesday that EU member states would "discuss the appropriate response based on all elements identified by the investigators."

In Washington, a White House statement urged Europe to disrupt Hezbollah's "financing schemes and operational networks in order to prevent future attacks."

Hezbollah poses a "real and growing threat not only to Europe but to the rest of the world," said the US presidential office.

ipj/kms (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)