- Associated Press - Monday, July 23, 2012

SOFIA, Bulgaria — The suicide bombing that killed six people, including five Israelis, in a Bulgarian seaside resort will not stop Israelis from traveling wherever they wish, a government minister from the Jewish state said Monday during a visit to the eastern European nation.

Like other Israeli leaders, Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov blamed the attack on Iran and the terrorist group Hezbollah, but Bulgarian officials declined to name any suspects until their investigation is complete.

Mr. Misezhnikov first met with representatives of Bulgaria’s Jewish community at the Sofia synagogue during his trip, which came less than a week after the bus bombing in the Black Sea resort town of Burgas. Five vacationing Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed and dozens were wounded in the July 18 attack.

Bulgaria, a country of 7.3 million, has become a popular travel destination in recent years for Israelis. Last year, it hosted 8.7 million foreign tourists, including 135,000 from Israel and, before the attack, tour operators had expected their number to reach 150,000 this year.

Mr. Misezhnikov also said Monday that Bulgarian security had prevented a terrorist attack against Israeli tourists in the country several months ago. His spokesman, Amnon Liberman, later confirmed he had made the comments during the visit, but would not elaborate.

Since last week’s attack, Bulgarian media reported that thousands of Israelis have cancelled bookings or cut short their trips. A representative of the Ortanna tour company said about 10,000 Israelis had scheduled vacations in Bulgaria through the firm this summer but that about half had canceled after the attack.

Bulgarian officials have downplayed those reports, and Mr. Misezhnikov insisted his countrymen would not be scared into isolation.

“After what happened in Burgas, we will continue to travel as tourists — in Israel and in Bulgaria and wherever else we wish,” Mr. Misezhnikov said. “We will not reward the terrorist act. We will not react to it with fear.”

The Israeli minister said his country and Bulgaria “have a common enemy: international terrorism financed and supported by Iran and other countries connected with Iran.”

“This is the common enemy of all countries which fight for freedom worldwide, and we must confront this enemy together.”

U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said Department of Homeland Security adviser John Brennan arrived in Bulgaria on Monday for “previously scheduled high-level meetings with Bulgarian officials.

“Last week’s horrific terrorist attack in Burgas underscores the importance of our strong partnership and continued cooperation on counterterrorism and law enforcement,” he said

Camera footage showed the suspected bomber wandering in and out of the bus terminal in Burgas. He was wearing a baseball cap, a T-shirt and plaid shorts and carrying a bulky backpack. Authorities have examined his fingerprints, his DNA and his fake Michigan driver’s license, and are trying to determine whether he had an accomplice.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide