Bulgaria: No Hezbollah link to deadly Burgas attack

Bulgarian Foreign Ministry denies report that Burgas probe links Lebanese terror group to 2012 bombing which targeted Israelis.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, BENNY WEINTHAL
January 18, 2013 14:16
2 minute read.
ZAKA worker at site of bombing.

ZAKA worker at site of bombing 390. (photo credit: Avigdor Shatran)

 
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The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry on Friday denied a Channel 2 report alleging that an investigation, set to be made public in the near future, will link Hezbollah to the July 2012 Burgas bombing that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver.

On Thursday, Channel 2 reported that the Bulgarian investigation found the Lebanese terror organization was behind the deadly bombing. The same day, however, a contradicting report appeared in Bulgarian media stating that Bulgaria has no evidence of Hezbollah's involvement in the bombing. Citing officials in the Bulgarian Interior Ministry, the report added that the bomber's suspected Arab accomplice had a link to al-Qaida in the past.

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The Bulgarian investigation report also states that the Europol has successfully identified three out of the four suspected of committing the attack, Channel 2 reported. The three allegedly entered Bulgaria through neighboring countries using fake identifications.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov declined to comment on the report in Israeli media, while Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday: "We will not make any comments before the Bulgarian government divulges its conclusions and states its position."

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov made a surprise visit to Israel on Thursday to brief leaders on his country's probe into the attack, but Israeli officials remained tight-lipped about what was said in these meetings.

While Israel blamed Hezbollah and its sponsor Iran for the attack, the Bulgarians have not yet issued their final report on the matter, due to be released either next week or the beginning of February.

The conclusions of the report are expected to have a significant impact on whether the EU finally adds Hezbollah to its list of terrorist organizations, something the US has already done and which Israel has been pushing for more than a decade. Such a move could lead to the freezing of Hezbollah’s assets in Europe.

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According to Bulgarian and Israeli sources, Mladenov met Thursday with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, as well as with National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror.

Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, in Dublin for talks with European Union ministers on Thursday, was also expected to update Bulgaria's EU allies with the latest news, his office said.

Bulgaria has said the bombing was plotted outside the country and carried out by foreigners but has yet to publish full findings from its long-running investigation, which officials say is not yet complete.

Earlier this month Bulgaria issued an international arrest warrant for the accomplice to the terrorist who carried out the attack.

Bulgarian police investigators are keeping details about the accomplice’s identity and origins – both of which they say are known to them – out of the public domain for the time being.

According to the Bulgarian news agency Novintine, the bomber went under the alias of Jacque Felipe Martin, and one of his accomplices used the name Ralph Willima Rico. Both had fake documents from the US state of Michigan.

The bomb blast tore through the bus soon after Israeli passengers had boarded. It was supposed to ferry them from Burgas Airport to hotels in the resort city.

Herb Keinon and Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.

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