The unidentified terrorist who planted the bomb that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian national last July was reportedly a relative of the Canadian suspect wanted by Bulgarian authorities.
“DNA testing has confirmed the terrorist attack that killed six at the Sarafovo Airport last July was a family affair, but officials have not determined whether the bomb carrier who died was also a Canadian citizen,” the National Post reported last night.
According to the report, the exact relationship between the living terrorist and the operative who planted the bomb and was killed in the blast is currently unclear.
On Feb. 5, Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov announced that the identity of three of those involved in the Burgas terror attack was known and that at least two of them are members of Hezbollah. While the real names of the two living suspects have not yet been released, authorities believe that they are now living in Lebanon.
According to Tsvetanov, prior to the attack the three members of the cell had flown from Beirut to Warsaw before taking a train to Bulgaria, the New York Times reported. Although the two living suspects entered Europe on genuine Canadian and Australian passports, in Bulgaria they used forged driver’s licenses that were created by the “same source” in Lebanon, according to Europol.
The Canadian suspect is said to have used a US driver’s license under the name of Ralph William Rico, while the Australian used the alias Brian Jameson. The terrorist who has not been identified had used the alias Jacques Felipe Martin on his fake US driver’s license.
After the bombing, which Europol says was not intended to be a suicide attack, the two remaining members of the cell fled to Romania over land, and then flew to Turkey before returning to Lebanon. One of the two Hezbollah members is said to have lived in Lebanon since 2006, while the other had been living there since 2010.
According to a former senior Western official, Bulgarian officials learned of the Australian national, who has been described as a “bombmaker of Lebanese descent,” in September 2012 after a tip from a European intelligence agency.
The suspect who used the Canadian passport is said have been born in Lebanon, and moved to Canada at the age of eight, at which point he gained citizenship. Canada’s Immigration Minister has said that the suspect “has [not] been a habitual resident in Canada since the age of 12.”
On Feb. 12, Bulgaria provided Lebanon with a detailed report on the Burgas terror attack. On the same day, the names of the two primary suspects were given to Europol. Bulgaria has asked Europol as well as Lebanon for help in apprehending the two suspects, who are believed to be living in Lebanon.
The European Union is expected to consider adding Hezbollah to its list of terror organizations in the near future. Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah will reportedly respond to Bulgaria’s claims in a speech on Feb. 16.
While many believe that the Bulgarian investigation will serve as a catalyst for the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terror organization, some diplomats say that the EU may not follow through, according to Agence France Presse.
Some observers believe that the EU will only designate Hezbollah’s military wing, at best, despite the fact that the Deputy Security General of Hezbollah, Naim Qassem, has admitted that “Hezbollah has a single leadership…. All political, social and jihad work is tied to the decisions of this leadership…. The same leadership that directs the parliamentary and government work also leads jihad actions in the struggle against Israel.”
The Burgas attack
On July 18, 2012, the 18th anniversary of the Buenos Aires AMIA bombing, a bomb (it is unclear if it was a suicide bomber) exploded as Israeli tourists boarded buses at the airport in Burgas, Bulgaria. Five Israelis and one Bulgarian national were killed in the attack, which wounded dozens.
Bulgaria’s Interior Minister said that the bombing was “a deliberate attack,” and Israeli officials quickly pointed the finger at Iran and Hezbollah. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s soon declared: “I know based on absolutely rock-solid intelligence that this is Hezbollah and this is something that Iran knows about very, very well.”
Mohammad Khazaee, Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations, countered by saying that Israel had carried out the attack. “Such [a] terrorist operation could only be planned and carried out by the same regime whose short history is full of state terrorism operations and assassinations aimed at implicating others for narrow political gains,” he claimed.
Despite Iranian allegations, American and Israeli officials were soon fairly certain that the attack had been carried out by Hezbollah with direction from Iran. “Israeli intelligence has evidence of many telephone calls between Lebanon and Burgas in the two months before the bombing… with the volume intensifying in the three days leading up to it,” the New York Times reported in early August.