Photo: Channel 10 (Bulgaria)
The Swedish secret service and Bulgarian officials have denied that Mehdi Ghezali was the suicide bomber who killed five Israeli tourists and two Bulgarians in a bus explosion yesterday, the Times of Israel reports. The Times previously reported that Bulgaria’s Channel 2 named Ghezali as the bomber, said that he arrived in Bulgaria five weeks ago and that he arrived at the airport yesterday via taxi.
Ghezali, a Swedish citizen of Algerian and Finnish origins, was held at the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay from 2002 to 2004 and arrested in Pakistan in 2009.
The Swedish secret service denied that Ghezali was the bomber to Swedish news agency TT:
Reports identifying Swede as behind #Bulgaria suicide bomb incorrect, secret service tells TT: “We can confirm he is not the suicide bomber”
— Carl Fridh Kleberg (@CFKlebergTT) July 19, 2012
Bulgarian officials denied the report to ABC News:
Bulgarian officials tell ABC News bombing suspect ‘s name that is circulating on Twitter is NOT correct.
— Jeffrey Kofman (@JeffreyKofman) July 19, 2012
Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov did not indicate how the police came to the conclusion that the man walking around the airport shortly before the blast was the suicide bomber, according to the Times of Israel.
Sofia also reported that the Bulgarian Interior Ministry managed to recover fingerprints of the bomber, which they gave to the U.S. because it has joined Israeli and Bulgarian officials in the investigation.
How the bomber obtained the fake passport and the circumstances surrounding his entrance into Bulgaria are unclear.
Ghezali had been detained during the battle at Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in late 2001 and handed over to the U.S. military before being sent to Guantánamo Bay. Ghezali – who reportedly studied at a religious school and mosque in Britain in addition to travelling to Saudi Arabia – told his captors that he crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan to study Islam, according to a 2009 article by Michael Moynihan of the Weekly Standard
Moynihan reported that Ghezali was released from Gitmo and sent to Sweden on a government jet after intense lobbying by Swedish prime minister Göran Persson.
Ghezali was arrested a second time in late August 2009, this time in Pakistan, while travelling with a group of multinationals who crossed the border from Iran reportedly on their way to the al-Qaeda stronghold of Waziristan. The group was found in a prohibited area near a nuclear power facility, according to Pakistani police and reported by Swedish paper The Local.
Ghezali and three other Swedes were released from Pakistan on October 10, 2009, and sent back to Sweden.
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