Iran denies involvement in Bulgaria bomb attack


Iran played no part in the bombing of a bus last year that killed Israeli tourists, its ambassador to Bulgaria said on Friday, rejecting Israeli charges that it was involved in the attack.

Bulgaria has accused the Iranian-backed Hezbollah of carrying out the July attack, a charge the Lebanese Shi'ite Islamist militia dismissed as part of a smear campaign by its arch foe Israel.

“This (the attack) has nothing to do with Iran,” Gholamreza Bageri told reporters. “We are against any form of terrorism and strongly condemn such actions.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week accused Hezbollah and Iran of waging a “global terror campaign” after the attack in Burgas, which killed five Israeli tourists, their Bulgarian driver and the bomber.

Given the link to an attack on European Union soil, Brussels is considering adding Hezbollah – which is part of the Lebanese government and waged a brief war with Israel in 2006 – to its list of terrorist organizations.

The United States already lists Hezbollah as a terrorist group and U.S. and Israeli authorities want the European Union to take a similar position, which would mean Brussels could act to freeze its assets in Europe.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Jon Boyle

Israel says Iran, Hezbollah waging global terror campaign


Two men with links to the terrorist organization Hezbollah were implicated in a terrorist attack in Bulgaria that killed six, including five Israelis, a Bulgarian official has said.

Hezbollah also financed the bomb attack on a tour bus full of Israelis last July, Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told reporters on Tuesday following a six-hour Cabinet meeting.

The people directly behind the attack were part of Hezbollah cell that included two operatives using passports from Australia and Canada.

Unveiling the results of the six-month inquiry in Sofia on Feb. 5, Tsvetanov said: “We have established that the two were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah,” adding: “There is data showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects.” The pair had lived in Lebanon since 2006 and 2010 respectively, the AFP news agency quoted Mr Tsvetanov as saying.

Until now Bulgaria has avoided making public any suspicions about who was behind the attack and prior to Tsvetanov's news conference, Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev did not confirm nor deny reports that Bulgaria would blame Hezbollah and Iran for the terrorist attack.

Israel has blamed both Hezbollah and Iran for the attack, which also killed the Israeli tourists' Bulgarian bus driver. Iran has denied responsibility and accused Israel of staging the attack.

“There should be no more equivocation, Hezbollah should be added to the E.U.’s officially group of terrorist organizations without delay or reservation,” Moshe Kantor, president of European Jewish Congress, said in a statement after the Bulgarian announcement.

The U.S. Congress in recent weeks has called on European bodies to join the United States, Israel, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in designating Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

British and Dutch officials pressed last year for concerted E.U. action against Hezbollah, a major player in the Lebanese government, but other nations including France have resisted efforts to blacklist the group in an apparent effort to maintain good relations with Beirut. The U.K. has classified only Hezbollah's military wing as a terrorist group, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Feb. 5: “There is only one Hezbollah, a single organization with the same leadership.” He added: “The attack in Burgas was on European soil against a member of the European Union. We hope the Europeans will draw the necessary conclusions as to Hezbollah's true nature.”

In his statement, Kantor said Hezbollah's designation by the E.U. as a terrorist entity “should not be subject to political considerations, but whether proscribing Hezbollah will hinder its continuing efforts to murder innocent civilians in Europe and around the world.”

EU High Representive Catherine Ashton commended the Bulgarian authorities for their attention to the investigation,

“The implications of the investigation need to be assessed seriously as they relate to a terrorist attack on E.U. soil, which resulted in the killing and injury of innocent civilians. The High Representative condemns all terrorist acts, wherever they take place, and emphasises that the E.U. and member states are committed to the fight against terrorism, whoever stands behind it,” she said Tuesday through a spokesperson.

Report: Bulgaria lacks proof of Hezbollah involvement in terrorist attack


Bulgaria says there is no evidence that Hezbollah was behind an attack on Israelis last year.

According to the report Thursday on 24chasa.bg, Bulgarian authorities have identified an Arab with links to al-Qaida as a suspected accomplice in the bombing at the Black Sea resort of Burgas last July.

The report came shortly after Nikolai Mladenov, Bulgaria’s foreign minister, paid a surprise visit to Israel to brief leaders on its probe into the bombing.

Jerusalem blamed the suicide attack, which killed seven Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian, on Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas and Iran.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not disclose the details of the meeting with Mladenov.

A Bulgarian finding that Hezbollah was linked to the attack could lead to its classification as a terrorist group in the European Union.

Congress has in recent weeks called on European bodies to join the United States, Israel, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in designating Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

Burgas bombing investigator dismissed for leaking info to media


An investigator in the deadly July bombing in Burgas was dismissed for leaking classified information to the media.

The Prosecutor's Office dismissed Staneliva Karadzhova after she provided information about the latest developments in the probe of the July 18 attack, the Bulgarian news agency Novinite reported. Five Israelis and a Bulgarian were killed in the attack at the seaside resort.

Karadzhova reportedly was dismissed on Jan. 3, the same day she told a local newspaper that Bulgaria’s security services had identified one of the perpetrators of the bombing. The suspect was not named.

The Office of the District Prosecutor in Burgas said in a statement issued Monday that Karadzhova was dismissed because “she spoke to the media without clearing her statement with the supervising prosecutor,” The Associated Press reported.

American and Israeli intelligence officials attribute the suicide bombing to a joint Hezbollah-Iran operation.

The bomber used the alias Jacque Felipe Martin; an accomplice was known as Ralph Willima Rico. Neither suspect's true identity has been discovered, according to Novinite.

Martin, Rico and the third accomplice, whose actual identity was discovered, all used fake U.S. identification documents from the state of Michigan.

The blast occurred on a bus soon after a charter plane, Air Bulgaria Flight 392 from Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel, landed at Burgas Airport. The bus was the second of four carrying Israeli tourists from the airport to hotels in the city.

Bulgarian police identify accomplice in Burgas bombing


Bulgaria’s security services reportedly have discovered the identity of one of the perpetrators of the July bombing in Burgas that killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian.

The Bulgarian news agency Novinite reported Thursday that the discovery was the first time Bulgarian authorities had tracked down an individual suspect, as the bomber and another accomplice are known only by their aliases.

The report did not name the newly discovered accomplice. Bulgarian authorities have no suspects in custody in connection with the case.

American and Israeli intelligence officials attribute the suicide bombing at the seaside resort to a joint Hezbollah-Iran operation. According to a report in The New York Times, Israel’s intelligence apparatus intercepted telephone calls between Lebanon and Burgas months ahead of the bombing.

Hezbollah, which is considered a terrorist organization in the United States but not in the European Union, could be classified as such also in Europe if it is found to have perpetrated an attack on EU soil.

The bomber was known under the alias of Jacque Felipe Martin and he had an accomplice with the alias of Ralph Willima Rico. Neither of the suspect's true identities has been discovered, according to Novinite. Martin, Rico and the third accomplice, whose true identity has been discovered, all used fake U.S. identification documents from the state of Michigan.

The blast on the bus occurred soon after a charter plane, Air Bulgaria flight 392 from Ben-Gurion Airport, landed at Burgas Airport. The bus was the second of four carrying Israeli tourists from the airport to hotels in the city.

Shapiro at 9/11 ceremony: U.S. won’t allow Iran to have nuclear weapon


U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro said that the United States “would not permit Iran to be armed with a nuclear weapon.”

He made his remarks Tuesday during a ceremony near Jerusalem to remember the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The ceremony by the U.S. Embassy in Israel and the KKL-Jewish National Fund was held at the Living Memorial monument in the Arazim Park outside of Jerusalem. The memorial contains all the names of the nearly 3,000 victims of the attack, including the five Israeli victims.

Shapiro called the attacks “a pain that perhaps dulls with time but never truly leaves us.”

“There is no nation that better understands our pain, and there is no nation that better identifies with our experience than Israel,” Shapiro said.

He also said that: “An Iran armed with a nuclear weapon is an unacceptable threat, and we will not permit it to be realized.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a joint press conference Tuesday with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, also marked the Sept. 11 attack.

“Today is Sept. 11th. So we commemorate the greatest terror attack of all time. We know that this malignancy threatens the entire world. And we know that the free countries and the principled countries have to stand together to defeat it. And we know that we have, with you, such a partnership, and I have no doubt that we shall prevail,” he said.

Five Israeli tourists and the tour bus driver were killed on July 18 when a suicide bomber attacked the bus shortly after the group's arrival at the airport in Burgas, Bulgaria.

Bulgarian police release photo of bomb attack accomplice


Bulgarian police released a computer-generated image and a fake driver’s license photo of a man believed to be an accomplice in the bombing of an Israeli tour bus in Burgas that killed six.

The fake Michigan driver’s license is registered to Jacques Philippe Martin, but investigators have learned that the man from the photo introduced himself by other names, according to the Focus information agency.

The man appears to be wearing a wig in the license photo. It was originally believed that the license belonged to the dead suicide bomber, but it was later determined to belong to an accomplice.

Five Israelis and the bus driver were killed in the July 18 attack on a tour bus full of Israeli tourists shortly after boarding in the Burgas airport.

Report: Calls between Lebanon and Burgas increased before attack


Israel has evidence of many telephone calls between Lebanon and Burgas in the two months before the bombing that killed six people, The New York Times reported.

The volume of calls intensified in the three days before the attack on a bus carrying Israeli tourists, the newspaper reported Thursday, citing an unnamed senior government official, pointing the finger even more directly—in Israel’s eyes—at the terror group Hezbollah.

“We know the sources in Lebanon,” although not the identity of those on the other end in Bulgaria, the official told the Times.

Israel placed the blame for the July 18 attack on both Iran and Hezbollah. The United States and Bulgaria reportedly agree with the assessment, but have not said so officially.

The Bulgarian investigation has “largely stalled,” according to The New York Times. The attacker and his accomplices have not yet been identified. Bulgarian officials are hesitant to declare Hezbollah responsible without hard evidence, according to the newspaper.

An unnamed senior security official in Germany was quoted as saying that the European allies are skeptical that Hezbollah was responsible for the attack, speculating that Iran used “individuals with Hezbollah affiliation.” 

Suicide bomber behind Bulgaria bus attack had help, Bulgarian prime minister says


A suicide bomber who killed five Israeli tourists when he blew up a bus in Bulgaria last week was backed up by an organized group who helped him plan and carry out the attack, Boiko Borisov, the Bulgarian prime minister, said on Tuesday.

Borisov said police had not yet identified the bomber whose attack also wounded more than 30 people at Burgas airport last Wednesday, but said the man had not acted alone.

“These are extremely experienced people who have followed strict conspiracy rules,” Borisov told reporters after meeting John Brennan, a counter-terrorism adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama.

“From what we see, they arrived nearly a month beforehand, changed rental cars, and traveled to different cities … and not more than one of the people we are looking for was captured on either security camera,” Borisov said.

He declined to give more details on the plotters.

Borisov said that the bomber’s DNA and finger prints had not matched anything held on file by Bulgaria or by partner spy agencies and that police were still working to identify him.

But he suggested that the attacker, whose bomb was concealed in his backpack, may have entered Bulgaria on a plane from the European Union’s “Schengen” passport-free travel zone. He did not elaborate.

Israel has accused Iran and the Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah of the bombing. Iran has denied the accusations.

Borisov said that Bulgaria – a member of both the EU and NATO – would not say who it thought was responsible for the attack until the investigation was complete.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Andrew Osborn

PRESS RELEASE: Jewish Federations, Jewish Agency to Provide Financial Assistance to Burgas Victims


For Immediate Release:
Contact Josh Berkman, Jewish Agency
212-339-6068/joshuabe@jafi.org

Jewish Federations, Jewish Agency to Provide Financial Assistance to Burgas Victims

New York, NY; July 19, 2012—The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Fund for the Victims of Terror will provide financial assistance to Israelis wounded in the attack in Bulgaria and to the families of those killed.  The assistance, made possible by a contribution from The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), is meant to help those affected by the attack address supplemental needs not covered by Israeli government bodies.  Any family that experienced the loss or injury of a loved one in the attack may request assistance from the fund.

Jewish Agency Chairman of the Executive Natan Sharansky said that the assistance provided by The Jewish Federations of North America demonstrates the solidarity of Jews around the world with the terrible pain of those Israelis wounded in the attack and with the deep mourning of the families of those killed.

The Jewish Agency’s Fund for the Victims of Terror, established in 2002, provides financial assistance to victims of terror in Israel.  Since its establishment, the fund—which is sustained by contributions from Jewish federations, philanthropic foundations, and donors around the world—has enabled The Jewish Agency to provide thousands of terror victims and their families with assistance at a scope of more than NIS 100 million.

About The Jewish Agency for Israel
Investing in a vibrant Jewish future, The Jewish Agency for Israel continues to address the greatest challenges of our People in every generation. We connect the global Jewish family, bringing Jews to Israel- and Israel to Jews. We build a better society in Israel- and beyond- energizing young Israelis and their worldwide peers to rediscover a collective sense of Jewish purpose. At the same time, The Jewish Agency continues to be the Jewish world’s first responder, prepared to rescue and bring Jews home to Israel from countries where they live at-risk. More information can be obtained at www.jewishagency.org.