`Sophisticated conspiracy in Bulgaria bomb attack`

Bulgar1a`s Prime Minister didn`t say how many people were believed to have been involved in the attack on Israeli tourists in Burgas.

Updated: Jul 24, 2012, 21:41 PM IST

Sofia: A sophisticated group of conspirators was involved in the suicide bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver last week, and they spent at least a month in Bulgaria before the attack, the country`s Prime Minister said on Tuesday.

Boiko Borisov`s comments confirm suspicions that the suicide attacker who targeted a bus filled with Israeli vacationers last Wednesday did not act alone.

However, the Prime Minister didn`t say how many people were believed to have been involved in the attack on Israeli tourists in Burgas and also declined to back up Israel`s claims that Iran and the militant group Hezbollah played roles.

Those involved used "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," Borisov said, speaking alongside visiting White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan.

He described the people behind the blast as "exceptionally skilled" and said they operated under "strict conspiracy rules”. He also said DNA samples from the suicide bomber have been shared with all partner security services, but no match has been found in their databases.

"There was absolutely no chance of preventing such an act of violence," Borisov insisted. "We could have only detected it by chance or if we had been informed by the services that such activities were under way in Bulgaria."

Brennan also stopped short of blaming Iran or Hezbollah, both of which are US nemeses, though he noted both Tehran and the Lebanese group had been implicated in attacks on civilians in the past. He said the US has been working with Bulgaria as the country tracks down those responsible.

"Bulgaria will continue to have the full support of the United States in the weeks and months ahead," Brennan said.

European security officials say that images of the attacker have not yet matched any of their databases but that it`s possible the man was not on a watch list.

Investigators know, however, that he was using multiple aliases and was wearing a wig and disguise when he was captured on closed circuit television, according to a European security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak about the investigation.

Israel has insisted that Iran and Hezbollah are involved and the country`s military chief insisted today that Israel would respond to the attack.

"We will have to find a way to respond to this attack, and not just a one-off," Lt Gen Benny Gantz was quoted as telling the Israeli parliament`s foreign affairs and defence committee. "We will know how to do it judiciously. Ultimately, the response will come."

Also today, Israeli and Bulgarian officials held a memorial ceremony at Burgas Airport to pay tribute to the victims of the attack, with a minute of silence and the playing of the national anthems. Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov laid a wreath.