Bulgarian investigators worked with the FBI and Interpol Thursday to identify the suicide attacker behind a deadly bombing on a bus carrying Israeli tourists, as Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu said the attack "was perpetrated by Hizbullah" and Iran denied involvement.
The attack "was perpetrated by Hizbullah, Iran's leading terrorist proxy," said Netanyahu, describing the Lebanese group as "the long arm of Iran."
The bombing was part of "a global campaign of terror carried out by Iran and Hizbullah" which had reached "a dozen countries on five continents," he said.
Earlier on Thursday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the public radio that "it's Hizbullah helped by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that is responsible for this suicide attack. This is proven information."
He indicated that Israel was facing a "global terrorist war financed and organized by Iran."
Lieberman said the latest toll he was aware of was five Israelis killed and three wounded. He said a sixth person had been killed in addition to the suicide bomber.
Lieberman's deputy Danny Ayalon, called for the European Union to "add the bloodthirsty Hizbullah to its list of terrorist organizations."
But he also said the Jewish state would submit a complaint to the United Nations Security Council and would "avoid reacting in a hot-headed manner, and carefully consider its response because all the pieces of the puzzle must be put in place."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak also pointed the finger at Iran and Hizbullah.
Israel is confronting a "global wave of terror" sponsored by Iran,” he told public radio.
"We are facing a global wave of terror... the attack in Burgas was led by members of Hizbullah and sponsored by Iran," Barak said.
"The al-Qaida and Islamic Jihad networks also operate globally," he added, citing a long list of recent attacks or attempted attacks on Israelis around the world.
Barak said Israel's intelligence services were working with partners overseas to share information about potential attacks.
"There are often very big successes, but it doesn't always work and we must continue to live. We will do everything possible to track down the perpetrators and instigators of the Burgas attack and punish them," he added.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu publicly accused Tehran and Hizbullah of involvement in the attack.
"All the signs point to Iran," Netanyahu said in a statement, which said the blast was the latest in a string of attempts to attack Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus and other places.
And in a phone call with Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Netanyahu "indicated that Iran and Hizbullah were conducting a global terror campaign against Israelis across the world," a statement from his office said.
U.S. President Barack Obama described the blast as a "barbaric terrorist attack."
"The suicide bomber, wearing shorts and carrying a backpack, looked like any other tourist," said Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov.
A video released showed a white man with long hair -- possibly a wig -- and sunglasses wandering around the airport in Burgas. Tsvetanov said he appeared to be aged around 26 and that he had a fake driving license from the U.S. state of Michigan.
The authorities had his fingerprints and had enlisted the help of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Interpol and Europol, to discover his identity, the minister said.
The explosion ripped through the bus as around 50 Israeli tourists arriving from Tel Aviv on a plane carrying 154 people were loading their bags and boarding before traveling to a nearby Black Sea holiday and gambling resort.
Five tourists were killed at the scene while the Bulgarian driver died later in hospital, officials said. Another 30 people were wounded.
Witnesses described how panicked passengers jumped from bus windows and bodies lay strewn on the ground with their clothes torn off as ambulance sirens wailed and black smoke rose over the airport.
"I would have lost my life in a split second, had I not jumped out of the bus's window," survivor Moshe Moseri told the Israeli news website Walla, describing scenes of horror with "corpses on the floor with their arms and legs severed".
Obama said the United States, Israel's staunchest ally, "will stand with our allies, and provide whatever assistance is necessary to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of this attack".
Iranian state television said Israel's "ridiculous" accusations were "aimed at creating an anti-Iranian atmosphere" amid rising tensions over Tehran's nuclear drive which the West suspects is aimed at building the atomic bomb.
"The Zionist regime, which is responsible for terrorist acts organized in Lebanon, Palestine and against the Iranian nuclear scientists... is launching baseless accusations against other countries to forget its own terrorist nature," a foreign ministry spokesman said.
The bomber struck on the 18th anniversary of an attack on a Jewish community center in Argentina that killed 85 people, also blamed on Iran.
Wednesday's attack, the deadliest against Israelis abroad since 2004, also drew strong condemnation from France, Britain, Russia and other governments.
More than 30 wounded Israelis, including teenagers, arrived back in Tel Aviv Thursday after being flown home by the Israeli air force.
Those who left Bulgaria included a pregnant woman and a girl of around seven or eight years old who was carrying her flip-flop because her right foot was wrapped in bandages.
Burgas airport opened again at 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) under heavy security, with all traces of the attack removed, although the site remained off-limits behind police tape, Agence France Presse reported.
A cordon was set up 500 meters (yards) from the airport building where people had to have all bags checked, and no hand luggage was being allowed on flights.
The charred skeleton of the bus was loaded on to a truck and taken away, as was an adjacent bus that also caught fire in the blast and which had a large blood stain down its side.
Israel and former communist Bulgaria, which has a 13-percent Muslim population, enjoy good relations and the Black Sea coast has become a popular holiday spot for Israelis, with almost 140,000 visiting the country in 2011.
In January, Israeli public television reported that authorities in European Union member Bulgaria had foiled a bomb attack when they found an explosive device on a bus chartered to take Israeli tourists to a ski resort.
|Copyright © 2012 Naharnet.com. All Rights Reserved.||http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/47100|