Israeli security consultant: ‘Security at Bourgas airport failed’

The security at Bourgas airport, where a terrorist attack the took the lives of five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver on July 18, had failed to spot the unusual behaviour of the suicide bomber, the former head of security for Israel’s flag carrier El Al, Isaac Yeffet, told Bulgarian radio station Darik in an interview aired on July 25.

The airport security had no personnel whose job would be to profile people in the airport lounges for suspicious behaviour, which could have prevented the attack, Yeffet said.

The suicide bomber’s behaviour, including his apparently pointless pacing around the arrivals lounge with two heavy bags, would have raised numerous red flags for any security professional trained to deal with such situations, he said.

Such a suspicious character would have been required to answer a number of simple questions that a regular, even if stressed-out, traveller should have no problems replying to. Further investigation of tickets and ID would have provided further proof of nefarious purposes, he said.

Yeffet, who has overseen the implementation total security measures for El Al before setting up a security consultancy in the US, said that the good relations between Israel and Bulgaria were a solid foundation – Bulgarian authorities only needed to ask for the help of their Israeli counterparts to set up such training for local security personnel.

Although not as popular a destination for Israeli tourists as other countries (like Cyprus), an estimated 135 000 Israeli tourists visited Bulgaria in 2011. Ahead of the suicide bombing attack, projections had been that this year would see 150 000 Israelis coming on holiday to Bulgaria. Overall, Israeli tourists make up about six per cent of Bulgaria’s foreign tourist market.

In related news, Bulgarian Parliament was scheduled to hear Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov, the head of the State Agency for National Security Konstantin Kazakov and other high-ranking officials from intelligence services, on July 27 for a progress update on the investigation into the terrorist attack. The hearing would be held behind closed doors with no media and public access because of the sensitive nature of the issues that will be discussed, according to the weekly agenda of Parliament.

The Bourgas Airport suicide bombing, according to initial reports and eyewitness accounts, involved an as-yet-unidentified man who boarded a bus carrying a group of Israeli tourists. The explosive in the terrorist’s backpack, said by Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry to have been three kg of TNT-based powder, caused the deaths of five Israeli tourists, the Bulgarian bus driver and the terrorist, and resulted in about 30 people being seriously injured.

(Isaac Yeffet speaks on airport security in this screenshot of an interview with MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann in November 2010.)



Alex Bivol

Alex Bivol is the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe.