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.