Thursday, July 18, 2013

One year on from deadly Bulgaria bus bombing, probe points to Hezbollah and a Canadian suspect



One year on from deadly Bulgaria bus bombing, probe points to Hezbollah and

a Canadian suspect


Stewart Bell | 13/07/17 | Last Updated: 13/07/18 9:51 AM ET


Natalie and Amir Menashe were ready for a holiday when their flight from Tel

Aviv landed in Bulgaria on July 18, 2012. Outside Sarafovo Airport, four

buses waited to carry them and 150 other Israeli tourists to the sunny

beaches of the Black Sea.


The mother of a 10-month-old, Ms. Menashe was boarding her bus when the bomb

went off. "I couldn't breathe and started running away from the smoke," she

told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. "I turned back and I saw the bus go up

in flames."


A year later, police on four continents are still investigating the

terrorist attack that, on European soil, killed Ms. Menashe's husband and

four other Israelis, as well as a Bulgarian bus driver and one of the

bombers. Thirty-two people were injured.


The investigation has also stretched into Canada: One of the three main

suspects is a Canadian of Lebanese origin. The others are a

Lebanese-Australian and an unidentified man who died while planting the

bomb, hidden in a backpack, that exploded in the luggage compartment of the

tour bus.


At a briefing Wednesday, Bulgaria's Interior Minister, Tsvetlin Yovchev,

told reporters that while he could not divulge details due to the ongoing

investigation, the evidence points to Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed,

Lebanese terrorist group.


Bulgarian officials declined to discuss the case but a source familiar with

the investigation told the National Post that evidence recovered at the

scene of the blast as well as intelligence information clearly show that

Hezbollah was to blame.


The suspects received money transfers from Hezbollah and the explosives were

consistent with Hezbollah methods, the source said. In addition, the U.S.

driver's licences used by the suspects were produced by a Beirut printer

that has manufactured other fake IDs for Hezbollah, said the source.


"There is no question this was Hezbollah," said Prof. Matt Levitt, author of

the recent book Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's Party of God.

"The question is how much of the information will be able to be made public.

There are some things that are still unknown. There are some things that are

known but have not been made public. But there is no question that this was

Hezbollah, period."


Last week, Bulgaria extended its investigation for five months. Meanwhile,

Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom have been pressing the

European Union to blacklist Hezbollah as a terrorist organization now that

it has been found responsible for an attack within Europe.


"Hezbollah continues to perpetuate instability and promote fear, right on

Europe's door step," Rick Roth, Foreign Minister John Baird's spokesman,

said Wednesday, adding "we continue to urge our friends in the European

Union to list Hezbollah as a terrorist entity."


The Burgas bombing was one of several recent terror plots linked to

Hezbollah and the Quds Force, the clandestine branch of the Iranian

Revolutionary Guards Corps. Others have been foiled in Cyprus, India,

Georgia, Azerbaijan and the United States. Prof. Levitt said they were

Iran's response to international pressure over its nuclear program.


"Iran instructed Hezbollah to target Israeli tourists around the world as

part of its shadow war with the West, at the same time that it tasked the

Quds Force with targeting Western diplomats, Israelis, Americans, Brits,

Saudis - all as part of a shadow war over the nuclear program," he said.


The Canadian implicated in the Bulgaria attack has not yet been publicly

identified but in February, then-Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said the

suspect had immigrated to Canada from Lebanon at age eight and later became

a citizen.


He lived in Vancouver but returned to Beirut with his mother when his

parents divorced. "I understand he may have been back to Canada a few times

since then but has not been a habitual resident in Canada since the age of

12," Mr. Kenney said.


AFP PHOTO / INTERPOLA composite portrait of a Canadian suspected accomplice

to the man who blew himself up near a bus packed with Israeli tourists at

Burgas airport last year.


Travelling on his Canadian passport, he allegedly arrived in Bulgaria three

weeks before the bombing. He then began using a fake Michigan driver's

licence that named him as Ralph William Rico. The suspects allegedly built

the explosive device in Bulgaria.



AFP PHOTO / BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTRYA fake driver's license from Michigan

possibly used by the Canadian suspect.


Although investigators initially described the attack as a suicide bombing,

they now believe the bomb went off prematurely as one of the terrorists was

planting it on the bus. The two surviving terrorists escaped by car

following the blast and are now in Lebanon. Authorities in Lebanon, where

Hezbollah is a key member of the government, do not appear to be

co-operating with the investigation.


At her husband's funeral, Ms. Menashe was still in a wheelchair, recovering

from her injuries. "I have no one now," she said at the service, according

to the Times of Israel. "We talked about our plans for the future and

suddenly we were blown up. I saw him burned before my eyes."


National Post



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