An explosion hit the offices of a Bulgarian newspaper Thursday morning (February 10th), causing minor damage, but no injuries.
The makeshift bomb, which was placed at the front door of the Galeria weekly’s premises on the first floor of a building in downtown Sofia, went off at about 5:40am (0340 GMT). The blast shattered some windows of the three-storey house, as well as of some nearby residential buildings, and damaged two cars.
The only person inside the paper’s offices was a security guard, who escaped unhurt.
Nedyalko Nedyalkov, the owner of the Millennium publishing company, whose offices are located in the same building, told reporters that the guard was “fine”.
“The door flew towards him and he hid under the table,” the publisher said, noting that the attack most probably was targeted at the Galeria weekly.
The paper recently published several leaked wiretaps of Customs Agency Director Vanyo Tanov’s telephone conversations with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Finance Minister Simeon Djankov and other senior government officials. It is widely believed to be close to Alexei Petrov, a highly controversial former State Agency for National Security (DANS) adviser, businessman and alleged leader of an organised crime group, who was released from house arrest several days ago.
In numerous interviews Thursday morning, Galeria editor-in-chief Kristina Patrashkova and her deputy, Yavor Dachkov, insisted that the attack was “a political act aiming to intimidate” them.
“It is obvious that our newspaper is the most critical of the government,” Patrashkova told state-run Bulgarian National Radio.
Many politicians disagreed however, stressing that the explosion was an act against the state, rather than the weekly.
Thursday’s attack coincided with the visit to Bulgaria of four EU commissioners, including Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, who was scheduled to arrive in Sofia later in the day, at a crucial time for the Balkan nation’s Schengen bid.
Commenting on the incident, Borisov, who leads the ruling centre-right Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), told reporters he was “not surprised” at all, hinting that he had even expected an attack of this type.
“I’m glad it was planted professionally, so as not to kill people,” the Sofia-based daily Dnevnik quoted Borisov as saying, noting that he had instructed Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov and DANS head Tsvetlin Yovchev to take immediate action.
Ivan Kostov, one of the co-chairs of the rightist Blue Coalition, views Thursday’s explosion as a continuation of the attack against the government, aimed at further undermining Brussels’s confidence in Bulgaria’s ability to fight organised crime.
“The fact that a thing like this can happen at a time when four EU commissioners are visiting the country comes to show that the government has lost control over the criminal groups,” he said.
He also reiterated the Blue Coalition’s call Wednesday for the interior minister’s dismissal so that the government can succeed in fighting organised crime. They cited also Tsvetanov’s failure to counter petty crime, the leaking of classified information, the extensive use of special surveillance devices, as well as violation of the basic principles of democracy as other motives for demanding his replacement.
An investigation into Thursday’s bombing attack was launched immediately. Solving the case would be “very difficult” however, Krasimir Velchev, a senior GERB lawmaker predicts.
“It was conducted by professionals,” he said. “It is not like someone got upset with the newspaper and put a bomb there.”