Israeli authorities blame Tehran for a terrorist attack at the airport of Bulgaria's Black Sea port of Burgas, in which five Israeli tourists and a bus driver were killed.
By Svetla Dimitrova for Southeast European Times in Sofia -- 19/07/12
Smoke is seen after a blast at Bulgaria's Burgas airport on Wednesday (July 18th). [Reuters]
Israel is promising swift retribution for a deadly terrorist attack on a tourist bus carrying vacationing Israelis to a Bulgarian resort town, saying that "all signs lead to Iran" being behind the blast that killed six people and injured 32 others.
The bus exploded on Wednesday (July 18th) at the Burgas airport, some 400km east of Sofia, as passengers were boarding following a charter flight from Tel Aviv. Officials said the group was heading to the Sunny Beach resort, about 30km north of Burgas.
The bus driver, a Bulgarian national, and five Israeli tourists were killed, Daniel Stefanov of the Bulgarian foreign ministry's Information and Situation Centre Directorate confirmed for SETimes on Thursday (July 19th). The assailant, who is unidentified, also died.
Israeli authorities promised retaliatory action. "All signs lead to Iran," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a text message. "Israel will respond forcefully to Iranian terror."
Iranian state TV called Netanyahu's claims "ridiculous" and "sensational."
The 32 wounded, including a Bulgarian woman, were all taken to a hospital in Burgas. All but three, who were in a critical condition and were flown to a hospital in Sofia, were transported back to Israel on Thursday morning.
The explosion happened at the Burgas airport, 400km east of Sofia. [Reuters]
The perpetrator had a fake driving license, purportedly issued in the US state of Michigan, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told reporters on Thursday morning, adding that the Bulgarian security authorities are working with their US and Interpol colleagues on the case. They have been able to take fingerprints from the assailant and were hoping to identify him soon.
Wednesday's terrorist attack coincided with the 18th anniversary of a deadly blast at the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which was blamed on Iran and the Hezbollah guerilla group. That incident killed 85 and injured hundreds.
The unprecedented terrorist attack in Bulgaria shocked people in the Balkan nation.
There was "flesh and blood everywhere," a Bulgarian witness told Sofia-based television. "I saw another bus catching fire from the one that exploded. It was complete chaos."
The Interior Ministry circulated surveillance photos of the suspected bomber, but has not identified him. [Bulgaria Interior Ministry]
The airport was sealed off immediately and all air traffic was redirected to Varna on Bulgaria's northern Black Sea coast.
Nikolina Hristova, an employee at the Morsko Konche (Sea Horse) hotel, about 500m to the east of the site of the incident, said that she was on her way to Sunny Beach at the time, so she heard nothing. But her colleagues, who were at the hotel, told her that "it was a very powerful blast and that they felt as if there was a minor tremor," she said for SETimes by telephone on Thursday. "They were scared, of course, thinking a fuel cistern might have exploded. But they were even more shocked when they found out what had actually happened."
People working at another hotel, less than a kilometre to the west from the Sarafovo airport, heard nothing.
"We heard about it from the media and airport staff," Elena Dimitrova of the Laguna hotel told SETimes on Thursday. "But, yes, we are worried, of course. Who wouldn't be?"
Bulgarian and scores of international leaders, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US President Barack Obama and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton among them, expressed shock, as they condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the terrorist attack.
"This terrible incident is a shock to all of us. Nothing can justify the deaths and injuries of innocent people," Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said in a statement released by the Foreign Ministry. "I pledge that we shall investigate this incident so that those responsible may be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Bulgaria will continue to fight against all forms of terrorism, which cannot under [any] pretext be justified. We shall work to guarantee the security of every Bulgarian and foreign citizen in this country."