BURGAS, BULGARIA — A lanky, long-haired man wearing a baseball cap and plaid shorts with a fake Michigan driver’s license carried out a deadly suicide attack on a bus full of Israeli vacationers, Bulgarian officials said Thursday.
Israel stuck by its claim that the attack was carried out by Iranian-backed Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite Muslim guerrilla group, and threatened retaliation. Seven people — five Israelis, the Bulgarian driver and the bomber — died in the blast Wednesday.
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 — about 250 miles east of the capital, Sofia.
Bulgarian television aired security camera footage Thursday showing the suspected bomber wandering in and out of the terminal shortly before the blast. He was dressed as a tourist himself, wearing a baseball cap, T-shirt, plaid shorts and sneakers with short white socks. He carried a large backpack with wheels.
Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said the bomber was believed to have been about 36 years old and had been in the country between four to seven days.
“We cannot exclude the possibility that he had logistical support on Bulgarian territory,” the minister said, declining to elaborate.
Officials were using DNA samples to try to establish the bomber’s identity. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov told reporters that a Michigan driver’s license was retrieved, but he said U.S. officials reported that “there was no such person in their database.” Michigan is home to one of the largest Arab communities in the United States.
The Israelis had just arrived on a charter flight from Tel Aviv carrying 154 people, including eight children. Some of them told Israeli television that they were just boarding the white bus in the airport parking lot for a ride to their hotel when the bomb exploded.
Israel’s military said a military plane carrying 33 Israelis injured in the bombing arrived Thursday in Israel. At least two critically injured Israelis were sent to Sofia for treatment, according to the head of the Israeli military medical corps, Brig. Gen. Itzik Kreis.
“The direct executors are Hezbollah,” added Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. “Israel will do all it can to find those responsible and punish them, both those who carried it out directly and those who dispatched them.”
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