Iran denies involvement in Bulgaria bus bombing

The attack yesterday on a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria killed seven people.

Bulgarian Interior Ministry/AP
This image taken from closed circuit television provided by the Bulgarian Interior Ministry, Thursday, July 19, purports to show the unidentified bomber, center, with long hair and wearing a baseball cap, at Burgas Airport in Burgas, Bulgaria on Wednesday, July 18.

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A suicide bomber with fake US identification carried out the attack on a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria yesterday, according to Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Israel accused Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, for the attack, which killed seven people and injured dozens. The airport bombing was the deadliest attack on Israelis abroad since 2004, reports Bulgarian news source Novinite.

Israel and Bulgaria are currently working with other countries, including the United States, to draft a condemnation of the attacks for the UN Security Council, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

“Iran and Hezbollah’s fingerprints are visible,” said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lior Ben-Dor, adding that both entities should be added to EU terror lists. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran and the militant group Hezbollah of conducting “a global terror campaign against Israelis across the world,” including recent attacks in Thailand, Kenya, India, and Cyprus

Iranian state TV rejected accusations of the country’s involvement, calling the accusations “ridiculous” and “sensational,” reports the Associated Press

Some say singling out Iran this early will only work toward straining an already tense relationship between Tehran and Israel. According to The Christian Science Monitor:

Though Israel has pointed to Iran as a prime suspect, it is too early to assign responsibility, says Meir Javedanfar, an Iran analyst at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. Jihadist groups like Al Qaeda, which targeted Israeli tourists in Kenya in 2002, could also be responsible, he noted.

"Netanyahu’s accusation that Iran was behind it will of course escalate the tension," says Mr. Javedanfar. "If Iran is found to be behind it, this will make a tension situation even more tense."

The suspected bomber was identified on airport surveillance footage for close to an hour before yesterday’s attack. The man, carrying a fake Michigan driver’s license, placed his backpack in the luggage storage compartment beneath the bus prior to boarding, reports the Associated Press.

“He looked like anyone else – a normal person with Bermuda shorts and a backpack,” Mr. Tsvetanov told reporters in front of the Burgas airport, located on the Black Sea just 250 miles from the capital, Sofia.

Bulgaria is a popular tourist destination for Israelis, and this was not the first attempted attack there. In January, a reported bomb threat on a bus carrying Israeli tourists to a nearby ski resort put security on high alert, reports the Monitor.

DNA samples from the bomber were collected at the scene and special forces are now trying to identify the suspect, Tsvetanov said. According to the Guardian, Bulgarian security services received no warnings of an attack.

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