Bulgaria attack: Burials held; hunt on for bomber
Sofia: Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov on Friday said that the man suspected of killing himself and six others at a Bulgarian airport was a foreign national.
Speaking at a press conference, Tsvetanov said: "We are talking about a person that is not a Bulgarian citizen... We are exchanging information with our Israeli colleagues and the other services."
Tsvetanov said the backpack contained the bomb, which detonated in the luggage compartment of the bus. The bomber was believed to have been about 36 years old and had been in the country between four and seven days, Tsvetanov said without elaborating.
"Now we are focused on finding out the identity of the suicide bomber and his possible whereabouts ahead of the blast," Tsvetanov said.
In the meantime, the five Israeli victims of a bombing in Bulgaria were laid to rest in a series of funerals on Friday.
Also today, a Bulgarian prosecutor said that the man believed to have carried out a suicide attack on a bus full of Israeli vacationers had a short haircut, not the long hair seen in a security video, and tried to rent a car in the days before the bombing but was turned down because his ID appeared suspicious.
Authorities are looking for clues as to the identity of the man by using his fingerprints, his DNA and his fake Michigan driver's license.
Israel was quick to blame Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah for the attack and a US official told a news agency on Thursday night that Hezbollah was believed to be behind the attack. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because it was a sensitive intelligence issue.
Prosecutor Kalina Chapkanova said in a TV interview that before the attack a man believed to be the bomber tried to rent a car in the town of Pomorie, near the site of the bombing. She said the owner of the rental agency, whom she would not identify, become suspicious of his license and refused to conclude the deal.
Chapkanova quoted the agency owner as saying that the suspect spoke English with a "specific" accent.
"The owner said that the man had a short haircut, while the photo on the license showed a man with long hair," Chapkanova said. "The owner said that there was nothing suspicious in the behaviour of the suspect. He has been very calm and even the failure of the deal did not upset him."
The victims of the attack included the Bulgarian bus driver and five Israelis, including a pregnant woman. The attack occurred shortly after the Israelis boarded a bus outside the airport in the Black Sea resort town of Burgas, a popular destination for Israeli tourists — particularly for high school graduates before they are drafted into military service. Burgas is about 400 kilometres (250 miles) east of the capital, Sofia.
In a statement late Thursday, the international police agency Interpol announced it was sending a team to help Bulgarian authorities. It said it would be essential to find out whether any of the false documents the bomber carried had been entered into the database of the France-based organisation. There are more than 33 million entries in that data base — 2.5 million of them stolen or lost US passports.
Israel has officially issued a complaint to the UN Security Council, accusing Iran of responsibility for the attack. Israeli representative Haim Waxman wrote the Security Council president that the attack in Bulgaria was part of an international terrorist campaign against Israelis and Jews worldwide, led by Iran and Hezbollah.