Naharnet

Bulgaria Says Hizbullah behind Bus Attack, U.S. and Israel Urge Europe to Take Action

The Bulgarian government said Tuesday that Hizbullah was behind a bomb attack in July that killed five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian.

"We have information on financing and membership of Hizbullah for two people including the bomber," Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told reporters.

"We have well-grounded reasons to suggest that the two were members of the militant wing of Hizbullah," Tsvetanov said after a meeting of Bulgaria's National Security Council. "We expect the government of Lebanon to assist in the further investigation."

He added: "They had Canadian and Australian passports ... (and) lived in Lebanon since 2006 and 2010”.

Europol Director Rob Wainwright explained to the Associated Press that the bomb was detonated remotely using a circuit board that a Europol expert has analyzed. Although it was initially believed to be a suicide bombing, Wainwright said investigators believe the bomber never intended to die.

Two counterfeit U.S. driver's licenses that were found near the bombing scene were traced back to Lebanon, where they were made, Wainwright said.

He said forensic evidence, intelligence sources and patterns in past attacks all point to Hizbullah's involvement in the blast.

"The Bulgarian authorities are making quite a strong assumption that this is the work of Hizbullah," Wainwright said. "From what I've seen of the case — from the very strong, obvious links to Lebanon, from the modus operandi of the terrorist attack and from other intelligence that we see — I think that is a reasonable assumption."

The investigators found no direct links to Iran or to any al-Qaida-affiliated terror group, Wainwright said.

Europol, which helps coordinate national police across the 27-nation European Union, which includes Bulgaria, sent several specialists to help investigate the attack.

The High Representative of the European Union Catherine Ashton commented on the ruling later on Tuesday, calling for the prosecution of all those involved in planing and executing the Burgas attack.

"The European Union and its member states are committed to fight against terrorism and all those behind it,” Ashton stressed in a released statement.

"An appropriate response will be discussed and developed based on elements identified by the investigators,” the statement revealed.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Bulgarian finding should push the EU to draw the "necessary conclusions" about the group, hinting it should be placed on a terror watch list.

"The attack in Burgas was an attack on European soil, against a member state of the European Union," Netanyahu said in a statement. "We hope that the Europeans will draw the necessary conclusions about the true nature of Hizbullah."

The White House urged European states to “take proactive action to uncover Hizbullah's infrastructure, financing and operational networks”, as expressed President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan and his nominee to lead the CIA.

The bombing on a bus carrying Israelis at Burgas Airport on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, the deadliest attack on Israelis abroad since 2004, also killed the Bulgarian bus driver and the bomber. Some 30 people were wounded.

Immediately after the attack, Israel blamed Iran and what it called its "terrorist proxy" Hizbullah for the bombing.

Iran has denied any involvement.

Canada, meanwhile, said it is taking "very seriously" the linking of a Canadian passport holder to the bomb attack.

"Canada takes the reported involvement of a dual national living in Lebanon very seriously and is working with Bulgarian authorities," Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement.

Baird commended Bulgaria on its "thorough investigation" and described as "convincing" alleged evidence of Hizbullah's involvement in the "heinous attack in Burgas."

"We urge the European Union and all partners who have not already done so to list Hizbullah as a terrorist entity and prosecute terrorist acts committed by this inhumane organization to the fullest possible extent," he added.

Hizbullah was banned in Canada as a “terrorist organization” in 2002.

Source: Agence France Presse


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