Israel: Iran behind bus bomb attack that killed seven tourists in Bulgaria
Quote:Israel has accused Iran of ordering a fatal bomb attack on an Israeli tour group in Bulgaria, in which seven tourists were killed and 30 injured, five critically.
A group of about 200, mostly young, Israelis travelling with the Kavei Chufsha company tour company had just flown into the country and were being driven to their hotels in a convoy of three coaches when the explosion hit the bus in the Black Sea city of Burgas, 250 miles (400 kilometres) east of the capital, Sofia.
The bomb, placed in the trunk, was detonated not far from Burgas airport, said Dimitar Nikolov, the city's mayor. At least 40 people were on board when it exploded.
Little more than an hour after the attack, the Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a veiled threat to Tehran in a brief statement holding the Islamic state responsible for the attack.
"Iran is responsible for the terror attack in Bulgaria, we will have a strong response against Iranian terror," he said.
The fatal attack comes just days after a 24-year-old Lebanese man affiliated with Hezbollah was arrested on suspicion of planning a terror attack targeting Israeli tourists, based on evidence provided to local police by Israeli intelligence.
The man was found with information on tour buses carrying Israeli passengers, a list of Cypriot tourist spots favoured by Israel tourists and details of Israeli airlines that fly into Cyprus, Greek newspaper Phileleftheros reported.
"Based on the modus operandi of Hezbollah and Iranian agencies, including the Revolutionary Guard, I think a clear trademark connects today's attack with those elements," said Boaz Ganor, executive director at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya.
This month's consecutive attempts – one thwarted and one successful - on Israeli targets abroad follows attacks on Israeli diplomatic targets in India, Georgia and Kenya in February this year. Iran has spoken of its "open war" on Israel.
"In February, the same groups were identifiable by their trademarks – magnetic bombs stuck to the bottom of diplomatic cars. This same method has not necessarily been used in today's attack, but we are seeing the same technique of simultaneously planned attacks," Ganor added.
"I would definitely not underestimate the threat of further attacks. There may well be terror units in different countries with similar contingency plans to attack Israeli tourists in the near future."
Initial reports claimed the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber, after eyewitnesses reported seeing a person board the bus before it blew up.
Michel Parhan, whose daughter Ron was injured in the blast, said she had called her in panic saying that a man had boarded the bus and blown himself up. "She sustained cuts and was bleeding, they removed her through the window of the bus. She was hysterical, and is there without a cell phone, so she could not say much," Parhan told Haaretz.
The Israeli foreign ministry has since denied that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber. Bulgarian media reports said an 11-year-old child and two pregnant women were among the injured.
The Bulgarian interior minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, was quoted on national radio BNR as saying the police were investigating two possible causes of the blast: that an explosive device was put in the bus before the tourists boarded or that the explosives were in the tourists' luggage.
Within minutes of the attack, Burgas airport was shut down and passengers newly arrived on planes from Israel to Bulgaria were not allowed to disembark. Eleven flights from Tel Aviv bound for eastern Europe were halted.
The Israeli foreign office said Israeli medics had been sent to Bulgaria to assist the injured. As the emergency teams were rallied, Israeli officials focused on those responsible and how the Jewish state should respond.
Following a briefing from Nikolay Mladenov, his Bulgarian counterpart, foreign minster Avigdor Lieberman called for a situation assessment.
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