Suicide bomber targeted Israeli tourists in Bulgaria

The blast that killed seven people, including five Israelis, on bus at an airport in Burgas yesterday was carried out by a suicide bomber dressed as a Western tourist, the Bulgarian government said. Israel’s prime minister and president both said that Iran was behind yesterday’s deadly attack.

The Bulgarian Interior Ministry released video footage of the suicide bomber [above, from BGNES] as he was waiting for the Israeli tourists to leave the terminal and enter the bus. The suicide bomber is dressed in shorts, a t-shirt, a baseball cap, sunglasses, and white sneakers, and is holding what appears to be a jacket. He is carrying a large black backpack. The suicide bomber also reportedly has a fake drivers license that was issued from Michigan.

“We have established there was a person who was a suicide bomber in this attack,” Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told reporters, according to Reuters. “This person had a fake driving license from the United States, from the state of Michigan. He looked like anyone else – a normal person with Bermuda shorts and a backpack.”

The suicide bomber is said to have entered the bus after the Israeli passengers boarded, and immediately detonated his explosives. Seven people, including five Israeli tourists and the bus driver, were killed in the blast. More than 30 people were wounded in the explosion, which destroyed three buses.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “all signs point towards Iran,” and that yesterday’s attack was part of a wider plan by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to kill Israeli citizens in attacks worldwide.

“Over the last few months we have seen Iran’s attempts to attack Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus and other countries,” Netanyahu said in a statement released on the prime minister’s official website. “Exactly 18 years to the day after the horrendous attack on the Jewish Community Center in Argentina, deadly Iranian terrorism continues to strike at innocent people. This is a global Iranian terror onslaught and Israel will react firmly to it.”

President Shimon Peres directly implicated Iran and warned that Israel would respond by hitting “terror organizations.”

“We were witnesses to a deadly terror attack coming out of Iran … we know there were other attempts, and this time they succeeded,” Peres said, according to The Jersulam Post. “It [Israel] has the means and the will to silence and paralyze terror organizations.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that the government has strong intelligence that Hezbollah, a proxy of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, conducted yesterday’s attack.

The Iranian embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria denied any responsibility in yesterday’s suicide attack, and called the Israeli government’s statements “unfounded.”

“The unfounded statements by different statesmen of the Zionist regime in connection with the accusations against Iran about its possible participation in the incident with the blown-up bus with Israeli tourists in Burgas is a familiar method of the Zionist regime, with a political aim, and is a sign of the weakness … of the accusers,” the statement said, according to The Jersulam Post.

Hezbollah, which is supported and funded by Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, stopped using suicide bombers in the 1990s as it switched to more conventional operations to target the Israeli state. But Hezbollah has provided support and training to other terror groups to carry out suicide operations, including Hamas and al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda and affiliated terror groups have also targeted and killed Israeli tourists in the Middle East. The attacks targeted resorts where Israelis are known to vacation.

Al Qaeda in East Africa executed the November 2002 attacks in Mombasa, Kenya. Suicide bombers rammed a truck into the lobby of hotel frequented by Israelis; 13 were killed and 80 wounded. At the same time as the hotel attack, al Qaeda launched two Strela surface-to-air missiles at an Arkia Airlines jet. The missiles missed their targets.

Two al Qaeda-linked groups, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which is named after al Qaeda’s co-founder, and Tawhid and Jihad (Monotheism and Jihad) Group in Egypt, have claimed to have carried out several attacks against Israelis in Egypt since 2004.

In October 2004, three suicide attacks in the Sinai Peninsula at the Hilton Taba and at a campsite frequented by Israelis killed 34 people and wounded 171 more. Egyptian security forces claimed that a Palestinian named Iyad Saleh had recruited Egyptians and Bedouins to carry out attacks in Israel but attacked in Egypt instead.

In July 2005, 88 people were killed and more than 150 were wounded in a series of bombings at cafes and markets frequented by foreigners in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm al Sheikh. Both the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and the Tawhid and Jihad claimed they had carried out the Sharm al Sheikh bombings.

In April 2006, 23 people were killed and more than 80 were wounded in bombings at two cafes and a market in Dahab on the Gulf of Aqaba coast of the Sinai Peninsula. Tawid and Jihad in Egypt claimed it had carried out the bombings.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • AMac says:

    From the blog “Legal Insurrection” — Report: Suicide bomber in Bulgaria was former Gitmo detainee from Sweden.
    “Via Times of Israel: Bulgarian media on Thursday named the suicide bomber who blew up a bus full of Israeli tourists, killing five, in Burgas on Wednesday as Mehdi Ghezali…”

  • Don says:

    Turns out the bomber spent 2002-2004 in Guantanamo Bay. How could we lose track of a guy like this? Further proof these guys should never see the light of day again. Innocent people died because we set this animal free.

  • Mad Hatter says:

    And we still want to close GTMO?

  • mike merlo says:

    this seems like an AQ operation as opposed to something Iranian in origin. Unless of course the Iranians made arrangements with AQ to ‘borrow’ some of their resources or simply contract out AQ to perform the task for them. I wonder what the odds are of this being a full blown cooperative betwixt the Iranians & AQ?
    If it was strictly Iranian I suspect the bomber came from the Balkans. Has a possible connection been discussed of those apprehended in Turkey & this suicider?

  • Michael Saint says:

    anyone notice all the hoopla? First it’s Ghezali, then it’s not. His fingerprints proved it was him then that it wasn’t. Israel says it was Iran, but Ghezali is AQ! Known associates of Ghezali are salafis, yet it must be Hezbollah!
    OK! so how about forget religion and look at this another way? Where is the best place to suicide bomb a bus? On it, of course. This bomb reportedly went off in the luggage compartment or next to the bus from the back of the bomber. Perhaps he was told to put it in under the bus and leave? But the guy who paid him had other plans… and a remote. btw… only hollywood hair is that poofy at the top. That wig really reeked man!
    well..what do I know? maybe it was Dr Evil?

  • Tony Buzan says:

    Bill, do you have a citation to your claim that Hezbollah has trained al Qaeda?
    As you know, Shia are routinely slaughtered by the hundreds, if not thousands each year just for being Shia at the hands of radical Sunnis.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Tony, you are hamstringing yourself by adhering to the common narrative that Sunni and Shia terror groups could never cooperate. You should read the 9/11 Commission Report for starters. You’ll see this:
    As early as January 1994, Bin Ladin received the surveillance reports, complete with diagrams prepared by the team’s computer specialist. He, his top military committee members-Banshiri and his deputy, Abu Hafs al Masri (also known as Mohammed Atef)-and a number of other al Qaeda leaders reviewed the reports. Agreeing that the U.S. embassy in Nairobi was an easy target because a car bomb could be parked close by, they began to form a plan. Al Qaeda had begun developing the tactical expertise for such attacks months earlier, when some of its operatives-top military committee members and several operatives who were involved with the Kenya cell among them-were sent to Hezbollah training camps in Lebanon.
    Or this, which discusses the “secret deal” between Iran and al Qaeda (Treasury’s own words):
    Or this, State’s designation of Yasin al Suri, an Iran-based al Qaeda leader:
    Or this, where Thomas Joscelyn discusses the Iran-al Qaeda relationship
    And the follow up, with even more information:
    Also search LWJ for the “Ansar Corps” – an IRGC unit that trains the Taliban (and while not stated in the Treasury designation, Ansar also supports AQ operations in western Afghanistan). This is the main article, but you’ll see others.
    Hope that is documentation enough for you. There is much, much more at your fingertips.

  • Mad Hatter says:

    @ MR. Saint. Find a picture on the internet of our former GTMO friend, and you will see it matches his hair pefectly. He had the 80’s Metallica hair going on all during his time on the island, and when released.

  • anon says:

    Bill, it may be worth looking into Ghezali’s gitmo file ( if you haven’t already. It says that his father apparently had contacts with Ansar-al Islam.

  • Neo says:

    Another thing you need to know is al Quada practices a radical adaptation of takfir. Takfir is a loose set of eighth century legalisms governing who is considered a heretic within the Muslim community and therefore kafir (a nonbeliever). It also guides the rules of war against nonbelievers. They believe they are justified in cooperating with kafirs, Shiite or otherwise, if it serves the greater cause of jihad. They also believe they are completely justified in killing the same Shiite, with whom they had cooperated, as a heretic. The justification is similar from the Shiite side of things.
    Bill has covered the particulars of the relationship between al Qaeda and Iran, but it is also important to know both sides feel justified with regard to religious law.

  • Tony Buzan says:

    Thank you Bill and Neo I am compelled to assert that in Najaf, Iraq, the heart and seat of Iraqi Shia culture as shown by James Longley’s Iraq in Fragments film, you would encounter literally THOUSANDS of relatives of Shia who had been slaughtered by Takfiris in that city alone.
    Your view, although held in good faith, simply does not adequately represent the terror these people feel at the hands of the Salafist truck bombers.
    And I do recommend you learn to distinguish between takfiris and Salafists; they are NOT identical by any stretch of the imagination; the best work on that comes from a top Jewish religious scholar at Tel Aviv University, he is the real deal.

  • Mac says:

    Thank you Bill.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I don’t know which “view” you are ascribing to me as I never said Shia aren’t terrified by being slaughtered.
    Of course Sunni terrorists have killed tens of thousands of Shia. They’ve also killed thousands of Sunnis. I spent a good deal of my time in Iraq between 2005-2008, I’ve seen some of it first hand.
    Just because Sunni terrorists kill Shia doesn’t mean the Iranians/Hezbollah won’t support them.
    And do you really think the Iranian regime cares about the average Shia more than they care about their overarching goals?

  • Charu says:

    My heart goes out to Israelis who have to live with the knowledge that they are surrounded by people who wish to kill them. What is unconscionable is how quickly these frequent terrible acts on Israeli civilians fade from the world’s memory and it returns to looking-glass theme that it is Israel who is an obstacle to peace and the poor Palestinians who live in fear. Just like it is the poor victims of the US drone attacks, but never the masses slaughtered by the Taliban/ISI. Al Taquiya is a powerful weapon against democracies.

  • Tony Buzan says:

    Bill and Neo,
    Good morning and I apologize for the delay in my response. Thanks for taking the time to respond in detail to my concerns.
    All of us are deep patriots who are damned and determined to eliminate the threat that manifested itself so horribly on 9/11. That was a heinous act of war from which we are still recovering.
    I bring overarching frameworks to my analysis of the Long War. Those frameworks provide the context in which we find ourselves today. Our actions and course of conduct must necessarily occur within certain aspects of that context that we never created.
    We find ourselves in the middle of a historic civil war within Islam, between Sunni and Shia. Some say the die was cast most clearly when Jordan’s king warned a few years back of a “Shia crescent” stretching from Lebanon to Syria to to Iraq to Iran to Bahrain, to the northern shores of the Trucial states and eastern Saudi Arabia.
    That declaration by the King of Jordan has guided much of our policy to this day, from turning a blind eye to the beatings and imprisonment of medical doctors in Bahrain, to the funneling of sophisticated weapons to radical Sunnis in Northern Lebanon as a counterweight to Hezbollah, to preparations for an attack upon Iran next year.
    There is a civil war currently going on between Islam. It is typically unwise, according to Henry Kissinger, to immerse ourselves deeply in ANY civil war without a deep understanding of the complexities involved, a truly daunting task.
    When we throw ALL our weight behind just one side in a civil war, it risks undermining our future position should the civil war end in a stalemate or adverse outcome.
    We know that one extreme of the Civil War is represented by Sunni Wahabbi-inspired extremists, whether they be takfiris or salafists.
    Their principal base of operations is in Saudi Arabia. That is where their principal funding and communication networks originate. Recall that earlier this year, the Saudi Interior Minister (and Crown Prince) asserted that 9/11 was a only “Zionist plot”.
    This was same Interior Minister, was head of the central authority tasked with countering terror networks in Saudi Arabia, a pig who claims 9/11 was a “Zionist plot”.
    With friends like that, who the hell needs enemies?
    Our principal policy guidance in the Arab Spring has come from these same Saudis currently involved on just one side, the Sunni side, in this global civil war within Islam.
    If the Saudis prevail in this Islamic Civil War, what can we look forward to? A ban on women driving in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Bahrain and more in imitation of their Saudi overlords?
    If I am deep in Shia country, be it in Beirut, Baghdad, Shiraz or Aleppo today I am permitted to read my New Testament in peace. I am a Christian and I demand the right to read my New Testament anywhere I want. In all these Shia cities mentioned, my New Testament study is allowed.
    However, if I am in Saudi Arabia my New Testament is illegal, it will be seized, and I will be arrested. What makes that something to ignore in our policy decisions?
    In the civil war between Sunni and Shia do we REALLY want to expand the area where the New Testament is banned to include Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Bahrain, simply to satisfy Saudi hegemony?
    Wise Christians should contemplate carefully the consequences of undermining our standing so quickly and directly in this region by blind fealty to Sunni Saudi sheiks, simply because we are addicted to their oil.
    Future slaughters of Christians need to be averted, not accelerated. And our policies are only accelerating the future slaughter of Christians by Saudi fanatics.

  • Witch Doctor says:

    This whole thread has been a wonderful read and an eye opener to somethings that I have never even pondered.
    It does make me glad to be an American and reinforces the age old notion that god, guns, and government never make for a good mix.


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