Bulgarian officials have announced that a half-year investigation conducted by Sofia has linked members of the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah to the July 2012 terrorist attack in the Bulgarian resort city of Burgas. Five Israelis and a Bulgarian were killed in the bombing.
The announcement comes in the midst of American efforts to convince the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group and to ban the organization from conducting business on the Continent. France and Germany have broadly rejected U.S. appeals to blacklist the group. Their objections may now become strained as Bulgarian officials outline evidence that Hezbollah committed a terrorist act on the sovereign territory of an E.U. member state.
U.S. officials have been emphatic about the dangers of the E.U.’s stance toward Hezbollah. In October 2012, John Brennan, then-senior White House terrorism adviser, slammed the E.U. for helping to “enable [Hezbollah’s] terrorist activity” and making “it harder to defend our countries and protect our citizens.” Brennan’s speech followed a September 2012 Congressional letter to E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, signed by 76 senators and 250 representatives, calling on the E.U. to “stand with the United States against Hezbollah.” It was in turn followed by critical statements in December 2012 and over this past weekend by former State Department coordinator for counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin, the latter explicitly declaring that the E.U.’s refusal to blacklist Hezbollah “undermines security goals.”
Bulgaria has long been viewed as a potential target for terrorists, in part because of its increasingly warm bilateral relationship with the United States. The two countries enjoy close military ties, Bulgaria having contributed over 400 troops to the U.S.-led campaign in Iraq and over 600 personnel to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. In December Bulgarian premier Boyko Borisov became the first European leader accepted to the White House following President Obama’s reelection.
Thirty-two Israelis were injured in the attack in Burgas when a bomber blew up a passenger bus at the resort city’s airport. The attack was linked by Israeli and some American officials to Iran and Hezbollah. Israeli officials also noted that the attack came 18 years after the bombing of an Argentinean Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, also subsequently linked to Iran, killed 85 people.