Suicide bomb kills Israelis in Bulgaria. Is Iran behind attacks?
Briefing: Israel claims Iran is behind 'global wave of terror' after latest attack on its nationals abroad
THE BULGARIAN authorities have released details of the suicide bomber who killed six Israeli tourists, a coach driver and himself in the Black Sea resort of Burgas at 5.30pm local time on Wednesday, reports The Daily Telegraph. He is said to have been "Caucasian-looking" with long hair and was carrying a fake Michigan driver's license.
No-one has yet claimed responsibility, but Israel has been quick to point the finger at "Hezbollah sponsored by Iran". Israel's defence minister, Ehud Barak, said the attack was part of a "global wave of terror" promulgated by Iran. What is the evidence for this view?
WHAT LINKS THE BULGARIA ATTACK TO IRAN?
No group has admitted the crime yet – and the identity of the suicide bomber is unknown. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu was in no doubt, however, saying yesterday: "All the signs lead to Iran." Israelis were quick to note that the date of the attack was the same as that of the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre in Buenos Airies 18 years ago. Argentina blamed Hezbollah and Iran for that attack, issuing an arrest warrant for Iran's defence minister General Ahmad Vahidi.
WHAT OTHER ATTACKS HAVE THERE BEEN?
Israel has accused Iran of being behind attacks on its citizens overseas in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya and Cyprus in the past seven months. And in January this year, another bomb plot was thwarted in Bulgaria. A bus chartered to take Israeli tourists from the Turkish border to a Bulgarian ski resort was to have been the target. After a bomb was found on the bus, Bulgarian troops were stationed at ski areas across the country at Israel's request.
HOW MANY PEOPLE DIED IN THE EARLIER ATTACKS?
Thankfully, none. Only the attacks in Thailand and India were 'successful' in terms of a bomb being detonated – and there were no fatalities at either incident, though five people were injured in Bangkok and three were harmed in New Delhi. The other three attacks were all detected and foiled before they could be carried out.
WHAT SIMILARITIES DID THE INCIDENTS HAVE?
All of the plots and attacks, with the exception of the alleged Cyprus incident, involved explosives. Two of the attacks – in Tblisi, Georgia and New Delhi, India – were co-ordinated, taking place on the same day, February 13. The Bangkok incident happened just one day later. These three incidents were all attempts to kill Israeli diplomatic staff – but the target of the alleged Cyprus plot seems to have been tourists, as was the case with both the lethal and the failed bombings in Bulgaria. It is not clear what the intended target of the alleged plot in Kenya was to be.
WHO HAS BEEN ARRESTED FOR THE CRIMES?
Arrests were made in Thailand, Kenya and Cyprus. In Bangkok, three Iranian nationals were arrested – one of whom lost both legs when a grenade he threw at police bounced off a tree. Arrest warrants for another three Iranians have been issued by Thai police. In Kenya, two Iranians were arrested for a plot they deny. In Cyprus a Swedish man of Lebanese descent was arrested after allegedly monitoring the movements of Israeli tourists on the islands.
DOES IRAN ADMIT INVOLVEMENT IN THE ATTACKS?
In a word, no. Al Jazeera reports today that Iran used its TV mouthpiece, the state-run Press TV, to dismiss Netanyahu's claims as "sensational" and "ridiculous".