The bombing of a coach carrying Israeli tourists was carried out by a male suicide bomber with fake U.S. identity documents, officials confirm.The bomber, killed in the attack, was a young man with long hair who was described as a “Caucasian” looking like any other tourist.
He was caught on CCTV walking around the airport dressed in sportswear, shorts and carrying a backpack before carrying out the attack on a coach load of Israeli tourists at the airport in the quiet Black Sea resort city of Burgas, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of the capital, Sofia.
The death toll was raised to at least eight after the Bulgarian driver of the bus died in hospital overnight. The other six victims were Israeli citizens and the suspected bomber died in the attack, Bulgaria’s Interior minister said on Thursday morning.
Tsvetan Tsvetanov said the suspected attacker was carrying a Michigan driver’s licence that was being sent to the FBI for authentication.
“The explosion was caused by a man who died in the attack and whose identity has not yet been established,” Mr Tsvetanov said at the airport a day after the attack, which Israel blames on Iran.
“The suicide bomber, wearing shorts and carrying a backpack, looked like any other tourist. He put his bag in the luggage compartment of the bus that blew up,” the minister told a news conference.
“His travel document was a fake driving licence from the (US) state of Michigan.”
No group immediately claimed responsibility but Israel was quick to blame Iran and the Hezbollah.
Israel’s Defence Minister said that his nation is confronting a “global wave of terror” sponsored by Iran.
“We are facing a global wave of terror… the attack in Burgas was led by members of Hezbollah and sponsored by Iran,” Ehud Barak told Israeli public radio on Thursday morning.
“The Al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad networks also operate globally,” he added, citing a long list of recent attacks or attempted attacks on Israelis around the world.
His comments came a day after Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, accused Tehran of being behind the attack near the popular Black Sea resort of Sunny Beach and warned of retaliatory measures targeting Iran.
“All the signs lead to Iran. Israel will respond forcefully to Iranian terror,” he said.
Three buses caught fire after an explosion at around 5.30pm local time ripped through a coach carrying 44 Israeli tourists, including many teenagers, who had just landed on a flight from Tel Aviv. Over 30 people were also injured in the attack.
The blast was confirmed as a terrorist attack linked to the 18th anniversary of Iran’s bombing of a Jewish community centre in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires that killed 85 people
“Eighteen years exactly after the blast at the Jewish community centre in Argentina, murderous Iranian terror continues to hit innocent people,” said Mr Netanyahu.
“This is an Iranian terror attack that is spreading throughout the entire world. Israel will react powerfully against Iranian terror.”
“Only in the past few months we have seen Iranian attempts to attack Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus and other places,”
Survivors spoke of the terrifying attack. Tsviti Isaac, who was sitting at the front of the bus, survived the explosion with facial injuries but it is thought that his pregnant wife was killed.
“The blow came from below and the side as if a row of seats fell on me. Somehow I left the bus, but then went back for my wife,” he said.
“I am still looking for my wife I do not know if she dead or alive. But I think she is not alive.”
Gal Malka, who also survived the explosion, told Israeli Army Radio: “We sat down and within a few seconds we heard a huge boom and we ran away. We managed to escape through a hole on the bus. We saw bodies and many people injured. The whole bus went up in flames.”
Dimitar Nikolov, the mayor of Burgas told the bTV television channel that the attack was caused by “a very strong explosive that was deliberately placed or brought into the baggage compartment of the bus”.
The US condemned the attack, with President Barack Obama stating his “thoughts and prayers” were with the victims.
Israelis have been targeted in attacks outside their country, notably in Delhi, India and Bangkok, Thailand, in February.
Israel suspects Iran of being behind these attacks, which have further added to tensions between the two countries already exacerbated by Israeli warnings against Iran’s alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapons programme.
The deadly explosion comes after a foiled bomb attack in January targeting a bus chartered to take Israeli tourists from the Turkish border to a Bulgarian ski resort earlier this year.
Following an Israeli request, Bulgarian troops were deployed in several ski resorts frequented by Israeli tourists after the bomb was found.
The foiled attack was thought to be linked to Hezbollah, the Lebanon based Shia Islamist terror group that receives financial and political support from Iran and Syria.
Israeli officials have pointed to the timing of the Bulgarian attack on the anniversary of the 18 July 1994 bombing of the Association Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA; Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) building in Buenos Aires.
Iran was blamed for that attack and Argentina has issued arrest warrants for several Iranian nationals including General Ahmad Vahidi, the country’s defence minister and former commander of the Revolutionary Guards.
Bulgaria has insisted the latest attack came without intelligence warnings.
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