By Ulrike Putz in Beirut
The suicide bomber was wearing plaid Bermuda shorts, a bright blue T-shirt, baseball cap, sunglasses and long hair. It was the perfect disguise; the young man looked just like a normal tourist. For more than an hour on Wednesday afternoon, he lingered in the parking lot of the airport in Burgas, the Black Sea coastal town in Bulgaria, according to video taken by surveillance cameras. When 44 Israeli tourists climbed onto a bus at 5:30 p.m. on their way to a beach-front hotel, the imposter boarded as well.
Just seconds later, an explosion ripped through the bus as the attacker detonated an explosive he had likely hidden in his backpack. Six Israelis, the Bulgarian bus driver and the perpetrator died in the attack. Dozens of Israelis were injured, some of them seriously.
An additional clue to the Wednesday bombing is provided by the fact that Western documents were found on the attacker -- often an indicator of Iranian or Hezbollah involvement. Investigators found a forged Michigan drivers license on the corpse of the suicide bomber, Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said on Thursday. DNA tests are currently being undertaken in an attempt to identify the attacker.
Targeting Israelis Overseas
It would likely come as no surprise to Israeli security were it determined that he came from either Iran or Lebanon. Intelligence officials in both Israel and abroad believe that recent months have seen an increase in attempts to stage terror attacks targeting Israelis traveling overseas. Evidence indicates that most of those attempts were steered from Iran or from the southern suburbs of Beirut, where Hezbollah is based.
In 2012 alone, terrorists made several attempts to target Israelis.
Israel, for its part, has not shied away from engaging in the proxy conflict. It is thought that the country is behind several deadly attacks in Tehran in recent years targeting nuclear scientists. Officially, Israel has made no comment, but behind the scenes some have boasted that the "long arm of Mossad has reached Tehran."
The Israeli reaction to the attack in Burgas was prompt. First, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blustered about the threat of retaliation against "Iran's terror." Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon was more cautious, saying the country would, among other things, file a diplomatic initiative at the United Nations for Hezbollah to be placed on the list of international terrorist organizations. Israel would seem eager to defuse concerns that it might use the attack in Burgas as an excuse to make a first strike on Iran's nuclear program.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak discouraged criticism of Israeli intelligence services over their inability to stop the attack. The fact that the experts did not predict the bombing was a "mishap," not "negligence," he said.
"The world is big and full of places where these people act," he added. "The success of our intelligence and of others has been great, but there are days that are painful, and yesterday was one such day."
David Böcking assisted in compiling this report
Stay informed with our free news services:
|All news from SPIEGEL International||Twitter | RSS|
|All news from Europe section||RSS|
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2012
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH