By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Officials in Bulgaria are blaming a suicide bomber for an attack on a bus of Israeli tourists that left at least seven people dead and say they are working with U.S. law-enforcement and intelligence services to determine who was responsible.
The attack took place outside the airport in the Black Sea resort city of Burgas after a planeload of Israeli tourists from Tel Aviv had boarded a double-decker bus.
The Bulgarian Interior Ministry says five Israelis were killed in the blast and dozens more injured. The number of Israeli fatalities had been revised down from six.
The Bulgarian bus driver was also killed, along with the bomber, who was reported to be holding what appeared to be a falsified driver’s license from the U.S. state of Michigan.
Israeli leaders have accused Iran and it’s Lebanese ally Hizballah of responsibility.
Iran’s embassy in Bulgaria dismissed the allegations as “unfounded.”
A commentary posted on the website of Iran’s state television channel called the Israeli claim “ridiculous.”
The Burgas blast is the deadliest attack on Israeli citizens abroad since 2004, when 12 Israelis were killed in a bomb attack in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
The blast also came on the 18th anniversary of the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina that killed 85 people. Iranian officials and Hizbollah have been implicated in some official investigations of the attack — allegations denied by Tehran.
Speaking on July 19, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said work was under way to indentify the suspected Burgas bomber, whose body is reported to have suffered extensive damage.
“We have strong evidence to believe that [attack] was the work of a suicide bomber,” Borisov told reporters. “We’ve been working closely with our FBI and CIA colleagues and no information was found about the [alleged perpetrator] in their databases. So, we can say with certainty that one of the victims had false [ID] documents.”
Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry has released a short clip of security camera video showing the man suspected of carrying out the bombing.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed the attack was carried out by Lebanon’s Hizballah in conjunction with Iran.
Speaking at a news conference in Jerusalem on July 19, he described the Lebanese militia as “the long arm of Iran.”
He said: “Yesterday’s attack in Bulgaria was perpetrated by Hizballah, Iran’s leading terrorist proxy.”
Netanyahu added that the attack was part of a global campaign of terror carried out by Iran and Hizballah, which had reached a dozen countries on five continents.
He pledged that Israel would continue to fight against terror and would “exact a heavy price from those who support it.”
Outrage And Injuries
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen condemned the bombing, saying in a statement that terrorism “can never be tolerated or justified.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry said those responsible for the blast “must be identified and carry just punishment.”
Israeli and Bulgarian officials, meanwhile, were coordinating relief efforts for Israelis injured in the blast and identifying the dead.
An Israeli military plane was preparing to fly back 30 wounded Israelis who had been temporarily hospitalized in Burgas.
A Bulgarian government plane will return some 100 Israelis who were not injured in the attack but want to cut their vacations short.