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Six Israeli's killed in terrorist attack in Bulgaria

Retired AF Guy

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From today's Globe and Mail. Re-produced under the Fair Dealing Provisions of the Copyright Act.

Bulgarian blast kills six Israeli tourists; Netanyahu blames Iran

ARON HELLER AND VESELIN TOSHKOV

SOFIA, BULGARIA — The Associated Press

Published Wednesday, Jul. 18 2012, 5:12 PM EDT

Last updated Wednesday, Jul. 18 2012, 5:43 PM EDT

A bus carrying Israeli youth exploded Wednesday in a Bulgarian resort, killing at least six people and wounding 32, officials said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “an Iranian terror attack” and promised a tough response.

The explosion took place in the Black Sea city of Burgas, some 400 kilometres east of the capital, Sofia. TV images showed smoke billowing from the scene – a parking lot at the local airport where the Israeli tourists had apparently just landed. Several buses and cars were on fire near the shell of the exploded vehicle.

It was not yet certain what caused the blast in the eastern European nation – whether it was the result of a suicide bomber or a device remotely detonated – and no group immediately claimed responsibility.

But Israelis often have been targeted in attacks outside their country and Wednesday’s bombing coincided with the 18th anniversary of the bombing of a Jewish community centre in Argentina that killed 85 people.

Israel suspects Iran of being behind several of those assaults, which have added to tensions between the two nations that were already high due to Iran’s nuclear program. Israel has warned it will use military force to curb Iran’s program if it must because it believes Tehran wants atomic weapons – a charge Iranian officials deny.

The Israeli Prime Minister noted that Wednesday’s attack followed similar attacks or attempted attacks in India, Georgia, Thailand, Kenya and Cyprus in recent months. He said that once again, “all signs point to Iran,” though he did not offer any evidence to back up the claim.

“This is an Iranian terror attack that is spreading across the world,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “Israel will react strongly to Iran’s terror.”

The White House, which has preferred to pursue sanctions and diplomatic pressure against Iran in the nuclear dispute, also strongly condemned the attack. Press Secretary Jay Carney said President Barack Obama’s “thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and injured.”

Tehran did not immediately issue any comment.

Bulgaria, a country of 7.3 million bordering Greece and Turkey, is a popular tourist destination for Israelis.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Rosenzweig said a flight from Tel Aviv had landed at 4:45 p.m. at the airport and that the blast took place about 40 minutes later. The tourists were apparently boarding the buses to go to their hotels.

Witness Gal Malka told Israel’s Channel 2 TV that she saw someone board the bus before it exploded. Ms. Malka, who was lightly wounded, said the bus was full of Israeli teenagers. “We were at the entrance of the bus and in a few seconds we heard a huge boom,” she said.

Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told Bulgarian national TV from Burgas that a person died in the hospital, bringing the death toll to four. Prior to that announcement, a doctor at the Burgas city hospital told Bulgarian radio that there were 27 people hurt and at least three had severe injuries. He was not identified.

The Burgas airport was closed and traffic redirected. In Sofia, meanwhile, Mayor Yordanka Fandakova ordered a stronger police presence at all public places linked to the Jewish community. There are some 5,000 Jews in Bulgaria and most live in the capital.

Iran, which insists its nuclear program is peaceful, has in the past accused Israel of being behind deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists.

Israel has not admitted a role in those strikes, but it and others have accused Iran of alleged reprisal missions, including a February bombing in New Delhi that wounded an Israeli diplomat’s wife and the discovery of a cache of explosives in Bangkok that Thai officials claim was linked to a plot to target Israeli diplomats. Iran has denied involvement.

In Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, security officials in March announced the arrest of 22 suspects allegedly hired by Iran for terrorist attacks against the U.S. and Israeli embassies and other Western-linked sites.

Wednesday’s attack also coincided with the 18th anniversary of the bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. An Argentinian magistrate has concluded Iran was behind that attack.

Israeli officials also have long feared that the Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrilla group would try to attack Israelis abroad. Hezbollah has accused Israel of assassinating a top leader in Damascus in 2008 and vowed to avenge the killing. Israel has never admitted involvement in the mysterious explosion.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon on Israel’s Channel 2 TV said there was no advance intelligence on an attack in Bulgaria.

But counterterrorism expert Boaz Ganor said Iran and Hezbollah were the most likely culprits. He told The Associated Press that all the indications pointed toward them. He also cited the arrest of a Hezbollah operative in Cyprus in recent days who was suspected of preparing a similar attack.

“This is probably a parallel operation and likely not the last in a series,” he said. “All this looks like Hezbollah, Iran or a combination of the two.”

The fact that the bombing took place on the 18th anniversary of the bombing of a Jewish community centre in Argentina that killed 85 people is of possible significance. Terrorist groups like to carry out attacks on anniversaries of previous attacks. The fact that Iran has blamed for the Argentinian bombing tends to point to there involvement in this attack. Another point is that the attack took place 40 minutes after the group had landed at the airport. That indicates that the attackers knew when the group was landing and where they were being picked-up, which indicates a level of professionalism that most terrorist groups don't have. Again another factor that points to an Iranian/Hezbollah connnection.

On the other hand there are lots of groups out there with a hate-on for Israel and may have used anniversary for their own purposes and as such may be nothing but a red herring. As for the attack itself; rather than being a well planned terrorist attack, the students may have just been a target of opportunity.

Whoever is responsible for the attack, the Middle East just got a little more tense, if it wasn't tense enough already.
 
Bumped with the latest - Bulgaria is saying Hezbollah folks with Canadian and Aussie passports were involved ....
A Canadian "dual national" living in Lebanon is believed to be involved in the deadly bus bombing in Bulgaria last July, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird confirmed Tuesday.

But key questions remained unanswered as Canada coped with the second revelation by a foreign government in recent weeks that Canadians allegedly took part in terrorist attacks abroad.

Baird attempted to fill the information void, by repeatedly calling on the European Union to ban the terrorist group Hezbollah, echoing Israel and the United States.

But that did little to prevent the minister from being peppered by questions about this latest incident in Bulgaria, which overshadowed a planned announcement of new measures to deter Canadian companies from bribing foreign officials.

Baird said the terror suspect had dual Canadian and Lebanese citizenship, but lived in Lebanon. He added that the suspect is still at large, and it remains unclear when he was last in Canada.

"This is not a resident of Canada. It's a dual national who I am told resides in Lebanon," Baird told a news conference on Parliament Hill.

"I couldn't even tell you the last time this person was in Canada."

Bulgaria's interior minister suggested the suspect was much more active in Canada.

"We have followed their entire activities in Australia and Canada so we have information about financing and their membership in Hezbollah," said Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov.

The suspect entered Bulgaria with a Canadian passport, and is believed linked to Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group and political party that Canada has designated a terrorist organization.

The suspect took part in an attack that killed five Israelis and their Bulgarian driver.

"We have well-grounded reasons to suggest that the two were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah," said Tsvetanov. "We expect the government of Lebanon to assist in the further investigation." ....
The Canadian Press (via Winnipeg Free Press), 5 Feb 13

Baird statement:
.... “Canada commends Bulgaria for its thorough investigation of last summer’s heinous attack in Burgas.

“That Bulgaria has found convincing evidence of Hezbollah involvement in this carnage is, sadly, not surprising. It is yet more evidence of the depravity of Hezbollah.

“Canada remains a committed partner in the global struggle against terrorism in all of its forms.

“We urge the European Union and all partners who have not already done so to list Hezbollah as a terrorist entity and prosecute terrorist acts committed by this inhumane organization to the fullest possible extent.”

Canada listed Hezbollah as a terrorist entity under the Criminal Code in December 2002 and listed its principal backer, Iran, as a state supporter of terrorism under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act on September 7, 2012.

Canada takes the reported involvement of a dual national living in Lebanon very seriously and is working with Bulgarian authorities.
 
From Bairds statement above
Quote
“We urge the European Union and all partners who have not already done so to list Hezbollah as a terrorist entity...."
                                                 
This contradicting article shared with provisions of The Copyright Act
indicates ( to me anyway) weak German political policies regarding terrorist groups. (highlights mine)
And besides, acting as a 'go-between' between Israel and Hezbollah is a complete waste of resources. Wake Up !
                                             
Germany warns of 'consequences' for Hezbollah if link to Bulgaria attack confirmed
06 Feb The Associated press

BERLIN - Germany warned Wednesday of "consequences" for Hezbollah if allegations are confirmed that the group was behind an attack which killed five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria last year.

Bulgarian officials said Tuesday that the Lebanese group had been linked to the sophisticated bus bombing carried out by a terrorist cell that included Canadian and Australian citizens.

The announcement put pressure on European countries such as France and Germany, which haven't designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization despite the urgings of Israel and the U.S.

"If the evidence proves to be true, that Hezbollah is indeed responsible for this despicable attack, then consequences will have to follow," said Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He didn't specify what those consequences could be. But a ban on Hezbollah's activities in Germany, where authorities believe it has almost 1,000 members, could limit its ability to collect funds for the group's main branch in Lebanon.

Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said Tuesday that two of the suspects in the July 2012 attack had been living in Lebanon for years.

"We have well-grounded reasons to suggest that the two were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah," he said.

Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group Lebanon that emerged in response to Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, has been linked to attacks and kidnappings on Israeli and Jewish interests around the world.

But the group has denied involvement in the Bulgaria bombing and a German terrorism expert said the evidence against Hezbollah would have to be closely scrutinized.

Even if a link is established Germany would likely weigh the consequences of banning Hezbollah, which also acts as a political party and runs social services in Lebanon, said Guido Steinberg, a senior associate at the German Institute for International and Security affairs in Berlin.

"You need to be consistent when making terror lists and avoid political considerations," said Steinberg, who noted that in the past Germany has acted as a go-between for Israel and Hezbollah.

Adding Hezbollah to the European Union's list of terrorist organizations would require a unanimous decision by the foreign ministers of all 27 EU countries.
                                                _____________________________________

"Even if"  Ha !    :facepalm:

 
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