SOFIA/BRUSSELS (EJP)---Bulgarian investigators are pursuing their enquiries into unconfirmed claims that the suspected architect of last week’s attacks on an airport shuttle bus in Burgas which left 5 Israeli tourists dead, may have been unaware he carried explosives.
According to reports in Bulgarian media outlets, the July 18 attack could have been the result of the as yet unidentified suspect being chosen by a terrorist organisation as a supposed ‘drug mule’ who was duped into carrying the explosive device in lieu of what he thought to be a delivery of drugs.
The alleged investigation is based upon reports that the suspected bomber was wearing a disguise at the time of the attack, in the form of a wig, which is not a common factor of consenting suicide bombers.
Terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda, have been known to select unsuspecting perpetrators for their missions, as well as choosing the seriously ill, drug-addicted or indebted in return for financial help for them and their vulnerable families.
The latest media speculation came as Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov made a visit to Burgas to pay his respects to the Israeli victims and deceased Bulgarian driver as part of an official ceremony.
The minister echoed the statements of Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu in holding Hezbollah responsible for the attacks, as he addressed a memorial service.“It is important that we bring to justice not only those directly responsible for the terror attack, but also the country that sent them – Iran,” he said.
Keen to reassert cooperation with Bulgaria, which has become a popular tourist destination for Israelis, having hosted 135,000 visitors from the Jewish State last year, he added:
“We cannot allow terrorist who have tried to destroy relationships between countries succeed in their evil intentions, and the answer to the terrorism needs to be the strengthening of our ties in all areas. Bulgaria was and remains a friendly nation for us.”
Paying tribute to Bulgarian security services, he also intimated officials had foiled a similar terrorist attack in the country several months ago, with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov appprently confirming his statement, according to Bulgarian Sofia News Agency reports:
“They came about a month before that, they changed leased vehicles, they moved in different cities so as not to be seen together, and no two of them can be seen in one place on any security camera,” seemingly confirming conjecture that a group and rather a lone individual was behind the attacks.
“The services worked perfectly but the manner in which the attack was carried out indicates it could not have been prevented,” the Bulgarian premier added.
Bulgarian authorities have been keen to emphasise that all lines of investigation are being followed to their natural end, as they are aided by the CIA, the FBI and Israeli investigative services. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov insisted on Monday that “until we are through with our investigation, we won’t be fingering any culprit”, deflecting allegations of Hezbollah involvement.
“Our top priority now is to pinpoint the movements of the presumable suicide bomber to identify all connections which will probably reach out of Bulgaria,” he added, alluding to foreign sponsorship of the attack, following Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s visit to Brussels on Tuesday, in which he declared it “unacceptable” that Hezbollah terrorists “pursue terrorist activity on European soil”.
Bulgarian police have responded to last week’s attacks by stepping up security at their country's airports. Flights arriving from Israel will not be publicly announced, and Israeli passengers will be kept in a separate and secure area.
At a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels on Monday, Nikolay Mladenov informed his EU counterparts about the terrorist attack in Burgas and its consequences.
"We are sending a very strong message of solidarity with the Bulgarian government," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton stated at start of the meeting, condemning the Burgas bus bombing as "horrifying".
Mladenov described the terrorist attack in Burgas as "the first attack of its kind on Bulgarian territory".
He stressed the cooperation of the Bulgarian security services with their partners and with Europol.
"I am thankful for this assistance because our goal is to make such situations impossible in Bulgaria and in Europe in the future."