BERLIN – Bulgarian police officers last summer arrested a Canadian citizen linked to the Iranian government who engaged in surveillance of the local Chabad center in the capital of Sofia, a well-placed and reliable local source told The Jerusalem Post last week, on condition of anonymity due to security reasons.
An Iranian-sponsored female agent in her 50s, holding a Canadian passport, traveled from Istanbul to Sofia several weeks after the bombing of the Israeli tour bus in the Black Sea resort town of Burgas in July 2012. She was arrested on her first day in Sofia after the Bulgarian police, on high alert, noticed she was monitoring the Chabad center.
Her mission was to survey the Chabad center – which houses a synagogue – and not the main Sofia Sephardi synagogue, as first reported.
The Canadian may be a dual Iranian-Canadian citizen.
The source added that Bulgarian security officials detained a group of individuals after the Burgas terror attack. It is unclear who the detainees were.
In February then-Bulgarian interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov announced that Hezbollah operatives, including a dual Lebanese- Canadian citizen, had been responsible for the Burgas bus attack resulting in the murders of five Israelis and a Bulgarian national.
Neither Dimitar Yaprakov, spokesman for Bulgaria’s ministry of foreign affairs, nor a representative from the legal department of the State Agency for National Security in Sofia, whose mandate covers counterintelligence and security, could comment about the case.
Multiple Post email queries to the agency’s press department were not returned.
Emma Welford, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, said she could not “comment on issues of national security.”
However, she added that “Canada is committed to fighting global terrorism and to holding perpetrators of terrorism – and those who provide them support – accountable for their actions. Canada listed Hezbollah as a terrorist entity under the Criminal Code in December 2002 and its principal backer, Iran, as a state supporter of terrorism under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act on September 7, 2012.”
Welford added, “We urge the European Union and all partners who have not already done so to list Hezbollah as a terrorist entity and prosecute terrorist acts committed by this inhumane organization to the fullest possible extent.
During [Foreign] Minister [John] Baird’s recent visit to Israel, both Defense Minister [Moshe] Ya’alon and President Shimon Peres praised Canada for cutting diplomatic ties and listing Iran as a state that supports terrorism in September, 2012. Preventing and countering violent extremism is a priority for Canada. We will not tolerate terrorist activity or those who support terrorist activity, at home or abroad.”
In early April, the chief secretary of the Bulgarian Interior Ministry, Kalin Georgiev, told the Bulgarian daily Standart , “I would by no means comment [on] the issue of terrorism because any statement on our part could have been used by people who work against us.”
Dr. Matthew Levitt, director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and a leading authority on Hezbollah’s global terror operations, told the Post that, “It would not surprise [us] if Iran or Hezbollah were found to be behind this plot [against the Chabad center] last year. Recall that five years earlier Western intelligence indicated that ‘Hezbollah chiefs and Iranian intelligence officials had put Bulgaria on a list of nations propitious for developing plots against Western targets.’ “Their first attempt at killing Israeli tourists failed when a suspicious package was noticed on a bus carrying Israeli tourists from Turkey to Bulgaria in January 2012. Six months later Hezbollah operatives struck again, this time with devastating success in Burgas.”
The latest disclosure about Iran’s alleged monitoring of the Chabad center may add new weight to the EU talks about banning Hezbollah, Iran’s chief proxy in Europe.
Dr. Wahied Wahdat-Hagh, an expert on Iranian terrorism in Europe and senior fellow with the Brussels-based European Foundation for Democracy, told the Post on Saturday, “Europe needs to wake up and learn from Hezbollah’s terrorism.” He said the group uses Iranian “know-how and money” to launch its terror attacks.
Tehran’s government has not shied away from using women as agents to engage in surveillance of opposition targets in Europe. Wahdat- Hagh cited cases of Iran using female agents in past terror operations. He called on the EU to pull the plug on Hezbollah and add the Lebanese Shi’te group to the EU terror list.