Seven Israeli tourists killed by bus bomb in Bulgaria


AT LEAST seven people were killed and 30 wounded when a bomb exploded on a bus carrying Israeli tourists at the terminal of Sarafovo airport in the Bulgarian Black Sea resort of Burgas.

The Israelis had arrived on a Bulgarian charter flight, and had boarded the bus to be transported to local hotels. Bulgarian officials reported that 44 people were either on the bus or waiting to board the vehicle.

It is believed that all the victims were Israeli nationals except for a Bulgarian tour guide, who had also boarded the bus. It was not immediately clear if a suicide bomber carried out the attack or if a bomb had been left on the vehicle.

Shosh Eyler, an Israeli on an adjacent bus, said the blast took place seconds after the groups boarded the buses.

“The bus next to ours just exploded. There was smoke everywhere, and people were running hysterically. We got off the bus and local security officers got everyone into the terminal immediately.”

Another Israeli eyewitness complained about the slow response of the Bulgarian authorities, noting that it took more than 15 minutes for the airport’s fire engine to reach the scene.

The airport was closed immediately after the attack, and flights were diverted to Varna along the Black Sea coast. Flights from Israel to Bulgaria were delayed.

Israeli security sources said there were no intelligence warnings indicating any danger for Israelis travelling to the area.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to blame Iran. He noted that the attack follows similar attempts in India, Georgia, Thailand, Kenya and Cyprus in recent months.

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

Defence minister Ehud Barak vowed that Israel would track down the perpetrators.

“We’ve been following terrorist organisations and Iranian entities who intend to engage in international terrorist attacks. It’s a bitter battle, with many victories alongside bad days like today.”

Yesterday’s attack came on the 18th anniversary of an Iranian-sponsored attack on the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in which 85 people were killed.

Israel had been concerned that Lebanese Shia Hizbullah would try to attack Israelis overseas to mark the fourth anniversary of the assassination of its military commander Imad Mughniyeh, attributed to Mossad.

In January this year Bulgaria’s security services were widely reported to have foiled a planned bomb attack on Israeli tourists in one of the country’s ski resorts.

At the time Israeli officials were quoted as saying buses to and from airports and resorts could be a particular target for terror groups because tight security measures inside terminals were not replicated outside.

Last week Cypriot authorities arrested a Swedish passport-holder of Lebanese descent after a tip-off from Mossad. Mr Netanyahu said the man was from Hizbullah, and was planning to attack Israeli targets on the island.

A special plane left Israel last night for Burgas carrying medical crews and investigators.

Turkey used to be the top Mediterranean destination for Israeli holidaymakers but tension in relations led most Israelis to seek cheap regional alternatives.