International officials are calling for the EU to label Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.
By Svetla Dimitrova for Southeast European Times in Sofia -- 07/02/13
A photo released by the interior ministry shows the bus that was bombed in the July 2012 attack at the Burgas Airport. [AFP]
The findings of an inquiry into the suicide bombing at Bulgaria's Burgas Airport last July -- in which Sofia pointed a finger at Lebanese militant group Hezbollah -- has ramped up pressure on the EU to designate the organisation as a terrorist group.
On Wednesday (February 6th), according to Reuters, the EU foreign ministers released a statement that said they will consider the move.
"Currently, Hezbollah is not on the list of terrorist organisations in the EU and member states will look into several options. This is one of them but not the only one," Maja Kocijancic, EU spokeswoman, told reporters.
But Gilles de Kerchove, the EU's top counter-terrorism official, told a Belgian news agency that being behind a terrorist attack did not automatically result in a terrorist designation.
"It's not only the legal requirement you have to take into consideration, it's also a political assessment of the context and the timing," de Kerchove said.
The ministers are scheduled to meet on February 18th, and the issue could be discussed.
The information sparked a reaction from the US State Department, which commended Bulgaria "for its thorough and professional investigation" into the bombing.
"The finding is clear and unequivocal: Lebanese Hezbollah was responsible for this deadly assault on European soil," US Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday. "We condemn Hezbollah in the strongest terms for an attack which bears striking similarities to other disrupted plots of the last year."
Kerry called on the EU and countries across the globe "to take immediate action to crack down on Hezbollah."
"We need to send an unequivocal message to this terrorist group that it can no longer engage in despicable actions with impunity," he said.
Five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian national were killed in the attack at the airport near Bulgaria's Black Sea port and resort city of Burgas on July 18th 2012. Another 30 people, most of them Israelis, were wounded in the explosion, which also killed the suspected suicide bomber.
"We have data of Hezbollah financing and involvement," in the incident, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told reporters on Tuesday. He said that until the architects of the attack are identified, the investigation will continue.
Three people were involved in the attack, Tsvetanov said.
"What can be established as a well-grounded assumption is [they] belonged to the military wing of Hezbollah," he said.
Political party representatives agreed on the need for the investigation to continue.
"A lot has been done. Sooner or later, the truth will come out," Jordan Bakalov, a lawmaker of the right-wing Union of Democratic Forces, told reporters.