Bulgaria accuses Hezbollah for deadly anti-Israeli attack
SOFIA - The Bulgarian government said Tuesday that two people with Canadian and Australian passports linked to the Lebanese Hezbollah movement were behind a July bomb attack that killed five Israeli tourists.
"What we can make as a justified conclusion is that the two persons whose identity we have established belonged to the military wing of Hezbollah," Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told reporters.
He said that they "had Canadian and Australian passports,.. (and) lived in Lebanon since 2006 and 2010".
He also the two suspects and a third person used fake drivers' licences from the US state of Michigan "made in Lebanon" to hire hotel rooms and hire cars in the weeks before the July 18 attack.
"From these three fake personalities, we established beyond doubt two persons' real identity," Tsvetanov said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Lebanon is ready to cooperate in investigations into July bombing in Bulgaria.
"Lebanon trusts that the Bulgarian authorities will undertake a serious evaluation of the results of the investigation and affirms that it is ready to cooperate with Bulgaria to shed light on the circumstances" of the attack, Mikati said in a statement.
Reacting to the Bulgarian government’s announcement, the White House called on Europe to take action against a "growing" threat from Hezbollah.
President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan, his nominee to lead the CIA, called on European states to take "proactive action" to uncover Hezbollah's infrastructure, financing and operational networks.
Brennan said the attack exposed Hezbollah as "a terrorist group that is willing to recklessly attack innocent men, women, and children, and that poses a real and growing threat not only to Europe, but to the rest of the world."
"Hezbollah's dangerous and destabilizing activities -- from attacking tourists in foreign countries to leader Hassan Nasrallah's active support of Bashar al-Assad's violent campaign against the Syrian people -- threaten the safety and security of nations and citizens around the world," Brennan said.
Brennan praised Bulgaria for what he said was its professional and comprehensive investigation into the attack, and said Washington would stand with the government in Sofia as it fights terrorism.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said the European Union should draw the "necessary conclusions" about Hezbollah following the investigation, hinting the group should be placed on a terror watch list.
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.
Israel immediately blamed Iran and its "terrorist proxy" Hezbollah but until now Bulgarian investigators have stopped short of pointing the finger at anyone.
Tehran has denied any involvement.
Helped by DNA and fingerprints retrieved from the bomber's remains, investigators had issued a computer-generated image via Interpol a month later, but since then progress has been slow.
The bomber's DNA had drawn no matches on international databases.
Investigators had already said they believed he had several accomplices and last month issued an arrest warrant for one of them, saying only that the suspect was male and foreign.
They also had security camera footage of the bomber at the airport terminal and a fake driver's licence from Michigan.
Doubts have also been expressed over whether the attacker meant to die in the bombing.
Bulgaria's Black Sea coast is a popular destination for Israeli tourists and the two countries enjoy warm relations.