Secretary of State John Kerry praised Bulgarian authorities Tuesday for conducting a "thorough and professional investigation" and determining that the Shi'ite Islamist group Hezbollah was responsible for deadly terrorist attack in their country last year.
"The finding is clear and unequivocal: Lebanese Hezbollah was responsible for this deadly assault on European soil," Mr. Kerry said in one of the first official statements that he he's issued since joining the Obama administration.
The July 2012 suicide bombing in the coastal Bulgarian city of Burgas — just north of Turkey on the Black Sea — killed five Israeli tourists along with a Bulgarian bus driver. Dozens were also wounded in the attack.
After a months-long investigation, Bulgarian authorities declared Tuesday that Hezbollah was behind the bombing. While the group is already on official terrorist designation lists in the U.S. and Israel, it is not on such lists maintained by the European Union, of which Bulgaria is a member.
Mr. Kerry suggested on Tuesday that he hopes the EU will reconsider.
"We strongly urge other governments around the world — and particularly our partners in Europe — to take immediate action to crack down on Hizballah," he said. "We need to send an unequivocal message to this terrorist group that it can no longer engage in despicable actions with impunity."
The secretary of state also said that U.S. authorities "condemn Hizballah in the strongest terms" for the Bulgaria attack, which bore "striking similarities to other disrupted plots of the last year."
"The United States is acting decisively and comprehensively to curtail Hizballah's destabilizing actions in Europe, Southeast Asia, South America, and the Middle East, and we are prepared to do all within our power to assist the Government of Bulgaria in bringing those responsible for the Burgas attack to justice," he said.
Bulgaria's investagion also drew praise Tuesday on Capitol Hill, where Rep. Ed Royce, California Republican, and the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs highlighted the connect between Hezbollah and the government of Iran.
"The E.U.'s indefensible policy on Hezbollah makes defending all of us from Iranian-backed terrorism even more difficult," said Mr. Royce, who added that the attack "on European soil makes the European Union's resistance to designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization even more incomprehensible."
"Recent Hezbollah plots have been uncovered in Thailand, India, Cyprus, Georgia, Kenya, and elsewhere," Mr. Royce said. "Now that Hezbollah has been found responsible for an attack on a European Union member nation, the E.U. must designate it as a terrorist organization. Failure to do so will only give these killers the opportunity to further organize, recruit, raise funds, and carry out additional terrorist attacks across the continent."
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