The Federal Bureau of Investigation today announced that it is seeking information on Meliad Farah (a.k.a Hussein Hussein) and Hassan el Hajj Hassan, two suspected Hezbollah operatives wanted in connection with the July 2012 Burgas terror attack that killed five Israelis and one Bulgarian.
“The FBI is assisting the Republic of Bulgaria’s Ministry of Interior in its investigation of this bombing,” an FBI press release stated. The FBI press release also encouraged anyone with information “concerning either of these suspects … to contact the FBI or the nearest American Embassy or Consulate.”
According to the FBI, both suspects speak English and Arabic. Hassan, who is reportedly related to the unnamed terrorist who died in the attack, was born in Zeghdraya, Saida, Lebanon and is believed to be 176 cm (5’7″) tall and weighs 74 kg (163 pounds), according to the FBI.
Although Hassan was born in Lebanon, he moved to Canada at the age of eight. Canadian authorities said the suspect has not been a “habitual resident” of Canada since he was 12.
Farah, who has been previously described as a “bombmaker of Lebanese descent,” was born in Sydney, Australia and is believed to be 155 cm (5’1″) tall.
Both suspects, the FBI said, should be considered “armed and dangerous.”
The FBI’s announcement comes two weeks after Bulgarian authorities named Farah and Hassan as suspects wanted in connection with the attack. Subsequent press reports have made a few new claims regarding the suspects, whose names were known to investigators since at least February (likely long before), alleging that the suspects received $100,000 in money transfers from Hezbollah and that they smuggled parts of the bomb on a train from Poland.
In addition, press reports have suggested that Farah left Bulgaria two days before the bombing. A review of flight data reveals that the flight Farah allegedly took from Warsaw landed in Lebanon early on July 17, as previously suggested in a report from LBCI.
Additionally, on July 29, Threat Matrix explored three Facebook accounts, two of which have been used recently, possibly attributable to Meliad Farah. Long War Journal efforts to confirm that the accounts are linked to the wanted Farah have thus far been unsuccessful. A Bulgarian official queried about the accounts today told the Long War Journal that he was not “authorized to make any comments on this still ongoing investigation.”
While Bulgarian authorities and the FBI have not said where they believe Hassan and Farah currently reside, reports have previously said that authorities are fairly certain the two suspects returned to southern Lebanon after the attack and remain there. For example, on July 23 the Israeli daily Haaretz reported, based on comments from a senior member of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, that “the men are hiding in southern Lebanon, and that Israel is searching for them.”
Bulgarian officials first charged that Hezbollah was behind the attack on Feb. 5, 2013. “We have followed their [the suspects] entire activities in Australia and Canada so we have information about financing and their membership in Hezbollah. A reasonable assumption can be made that the two of them were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah,” Tsvetan Tsvetanov, then Interior Minister, said at the time.
The Burgas attack
On July 18, 2012, the 18th anniversary of the Buenos Aires AMIA bombing, a bomb 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.
While Bulgaria’s Interior Minister said that the bombing was “a deliberate attack,” Israeli officials quickly pointed the finger at Iran and Hezbollah. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 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.”
Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad Khazaee countered by saying 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. The numbers in Lebanon were tied to known Hezbollah operatives.
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