Further progress into investigation into Bourgas terrorist attack, Bulgaria says

There has been further progress into the investigation into the July 2012 terrorist attack at Bourgas Airport, in which five Israelis and a Bulgarian were killed, Bulgaria’s Interior Minister said a day after European Union foreign ministers unanimously agreed to include Hezbollah’s military wing – found by a Bulgarian-led international investigation to have been behind the attack – on the EU’s list of terrorist organisations.

Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev welcomed the EU foreign ministers’ decision. He said that the terrorist attack in Bulgaria had not been the sole reason for the decision.

“The decision was made with consensus, which shows that a lot of factors were taken into account, not only security and political struggle,” Yovchev said.

He said that there was no increased risk to Bulgaria.

“Despite that, we undertake all necessary measures to ensure the security of all critical infrastructure and other sites in Bulgaria,” he said.

The EU foreign ministers’ decision on Hezbollah’s military wing will outlaw the sending of money from sympathisers in the EU to the Lebanon-based grouping and will prevent EU diplomatic contacts with it. It will not, however, curtail the sending of EU humanitarian and other aid to Lebanon, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin said.

The decision on July 22 was welcomed in several quarters but condemned by Iran, Lebanon and Hezbollah itself.

Among the latest reactions welcoming the move was that from United States secretary of state John Kerry.

“With today’s action, the EU is sending a strong message to Hezbollah that it cannot operate with impunity, and that there are consequences for its actions, including last year’s deadly attack in Bourgas, Bulgaria, and for plotting a similar attack in Cyprus,” Kerry said on July 22.

“This designation will have a significant impact on Hezbollah’s ability to operate freely in Europe by enabling European law enforcement agencies to crack down on Hezbollah’s fundraising, logistical activity, and terrorist plotting on European soil,” he said.

As Hezbollah has deepened its support for the brutal Assad regime and worked to expand its global reach through increased involvement in international criminal schemes and terrorist plots around the world, a growing number of governments are recognizing Hezbollah as the dangerous and destabilizing terrorist organisation that it is, the US secretary of state said.

“We call on other governments to follow the EU’s lead, and to take steps to begin reining in Hezbollah’s terrorist and criminal activities,” Kerry said.

In a letter, Israeli president Shimon Peres thanked European leaders for listing Lebanon’s Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation, the European Jewish Press reported.

The decision was a “significant and necessary step towards putting an end to the spread of terrorism across the globe,” Peres wrote, according to a statement from his office.

“The devastating effects of terrorism are not restricted to the Middle East. As we witnessed in the horrific attack in Bulgaria, Hezbollah strikes all over the world, including within Europe, indiscriminately targeting innocent civilians,” he said.

“Your decision sends a clear message to terrorist organisations and the countries which harbour them that their murderous actions will not be tolerated,” Peres said.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu also welcomed the EU decision:

“I welcome the fact that the EU has also declared Hezbollah to be a terrorist organisation and I thank the leaders of its member states. In recent years, the State of Israel has invested great effort in explaining to all EU member states that Hezbollah is the terrorist arm of the Iranian regime and perpetrates attacks around the world,’’ Netanyahu said.

“As far as the State of Israel is concerned, Hezbollah is one organisation, the arms of which are indistinguishable. It has imposed terrorist rule on wide sections of Lebanon, has converted them into an Iranian protectorate and is stockpiling tens of thousands of rockets there. These have been placed in the heart of civilian populations and are designed to be fired at population centers in Israel,’’ he said.

“I hope that the implementation of the decision will lead to tangible steps against the organisation,” Netanyahu said.

The president of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, welcomed but expressed cautious optimism after Hezbollah’s military wing was added to the list of proscribed terrorist organisations in the EU at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting.

The EJC has long lobbied to place the entire organisation on the terror list, and has met with and made official requests to the relevant governments and senior European Union officials, including the new Czech foreign minister.

“We welcome this decision today and hope that this will greatly dampen Hezbollah’s efforts to raise funds to finance its terrorist activities, recruit, plot and commit atrocities on European soil and beyond,” Kantor said. “This decision sends a message that Europe will no longer be a welcome territory for this murderous terrorist organisation.”

“While we maintain that Hezbollah is one organisation with one hierarchy and one set of goals, we congratulate the EU for this important and historic decision,” Kantor said. “Furthermore, it is incumbent upon European governments to follow fundraising and recruitment by Hezbollah to ensure that they are not using this split designation as a loophole to continue to plot and commit atrocities in Europe and the Middle East, where it is assisting Assad in massacres in Syria. If so, we hope that this issue will be revisited in the near future,” he said.

Shiite Iran has denounced the EU for its decision to blacklist Hezbollah’s armed wing as a terror group, accusing it of acting in Israel’s interests, Iranian media said on July 23, cited by AFP, local news agency Focus said.

Iran “strongly denounces the (EU) decision… and believes (it) is in line with the illegitimate interests of the Zionist regime,” foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying by official media.

In a statement quoted by the BBC, Hezbollah said the EU decision “was written by American hands with Israeli ink”.

The group said the move “has no justification and is not based on any proof”.




Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.