Bulgaria tells Europol names of 2 bombing suspects
Bulgaria has given Europol the names of two of the people suspected in a bus bombing that killed five Israeli tourists last year, with hopes that the police agency can trace their movements and uncover how they financed the attack, the country's interior minister said Tuesday.
The European country also has requested that Lebanese authorities arrest and extradite the two suspects, who are believed to be living in Lebanon, an official said.
The July 18 bombing killed the Israeli tourists at the airport in the Black Sea resort of Burgas as well as a Bulgarian bus driver and a suspected bomber. Three men are suspected in the attack, including the dead bomber. The latter's identity has not been established. The names of the two other suspects, believed to still be alive, have not been released to the public.
An official Bulgarian report last week, however, said investigators had "well-grounded reasons to suggest" that the two belonged to the militant wing of the Islamist group Hezbollah. The report said they have been living in Lebanon for years, one with a Canadian passport and the other with an Australian one.
Israel has accused Iran, which is said to support Hezbollah, of involvement in the attack. But Iran and Hezbollah have denied any role.
Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov met with Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, in The Hague, Netherlands, on Tuesday. Europol coordinates national police forces across the European Union.
Tsvetanov told The Associated Press that Bulgaria hopes Europol can help provide "a thorough check and analysis (that) will help find new facts about the terrorist act."
By including the names in Europol's database, Tsvetanov said, Bulgaria hopes to determine if the suspects resided in any other EU country and whether any other agencies had information about them. He also announced that a team of Bulgarian experts would soon go to The Hague to join Europol's investigation.
The identity of the suspect who died in the bombing remains unknown even though his DNA samples have been shared with foreign intelligence agencies. In Sofia, Stanimir Florov, head of an anti-terror unit, said on Tuesday that there is "categorical" evidence that the man was not a suicide bomber. Authorities suspect he detonated the bomb accidentally or that a colleague did so remotely.
"If he was a kamikaze, he would have entered the bus packed with 47 passengers and blown himself up, causing a huge death toll," Florov told Bulgarian National Radio.
Florov also said Bulgaria has officially requested that Lebanese authorities arrest and extradite the suspects to Bulgaria. "So far there are no signs of possible cooperation from Lebanon," he said.