- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 18, 2012

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — A bus carrying Israeli youth exploded Wednesday in a Bulgarian resort, killing at least four people and wounding more than two dozen, police and hospital officials said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “an Iranian terror attack” and promised a tough response.

The explosion took place in the Black Sea city of Burgas, some 250 miles east of the capital, Sofia. TV images showed smoke billowing from the scene — a parking lot at the local airport, where the Israeli tourists had apparently just landed. Several buses and cars were on fire near the shell of the exploded vehicle.

Bulgaria, an Eastern European nation bordering Greece and Turkey, is a popular tourist destination for Israelis.

It was not yet certain what caused the blast — whether it was the result of a suicide bomber or a device remotely detonated — and no group immediately claimed responsibility.

But Israelis often have been targeted in attacks outside their country, and Wednesday’s bombing coincided with the 18th anniversary of the bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina that killed 85 people.

Israel suspects Iran of being behind several of those assaults, which have added to the tensions already exacerbated by Israeli warnings against Iran’s alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapons program.

The Israeli premier noted that Wednesday’s attack followed similar attacks or attempted attacks in India, Georgia, Thailand, Kenya and Cyprus in recent months. He said that, once again, “all signs point to Iran,” though he did not offer any evidence to back up the claim.

“This is an Iranian terror attack that is spreading across the world,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “Israel will react strongly to Iran’s terror.”

Tehran did not immediately issue any comment.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Rosenzweig said that a flight from Tel Aviv had landed at 4:45 p.m. at the airport and that the blast took place about 40 minutes later. The tourists apparently were boarding the buses to go to their hotels.

Witness Gal Malka told Israel’s Channel 2 TV that she saw someone board the bus before it exploded. Ms. Malka, who was lightly wounded, said the bus was full of Israeli teenagers.

“We were at the entrance of the bus, and in a few seconds we heard a huge boom,” she said.

Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told Bulgarian national TV from Burgas that a person died in the hospital, bringing the death toll to four. Before that announcement, a doctor at the Burgas city hospital told Bulgarian radio that there were 27 people hurt — and at least three had severe injuries. He was not identified.

The Burgas airport was closed and traffic redirected. In Sofia, meanwhile, Mayor Yordanka Fandakova ordered a stronger police presence at all public places linked to the Jewish community. There are some 5,000 Jews in Bulgaria, and most live in the capital.

Iran, which insists its nuclear program is peaceful, has in the past accused Israel of being behind deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists.

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