Israelis killed in Bulgaria bus terror attack, minister sayshttp://www.cnn.com/2012/07/18/
(CNN) -- A deadly explosion on a bus carrying Israeli tourists at an airport in Bulgaria is "clearly a terrorist attack," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday.
Key Israeli politicians pointed to Iran as the likely instigator.
Vania Valkova, director of the Bulgarian Interior Ministry press office, said that at least six people were killed and about 30 injured in the explosion in a parking lot outside Burgas Airport, on the Black Sea coast. The Foreign Ministry said six died and 32 people were injured, with three in intensive care.
The attack was probably initiated by a group under the auspices of "either Iran or other radical Muslim groups," according to Barak, who cited Hezbollah and Hamas as likely suspects. "We are in a continued fight against them. We are determined to identify who sent them, who executed (the attack) and to settle the account," Barak said.
Bulgaria's foreign minister, Nikolai Mladenov, told CNN late Wednesday he presumes the explosion was a terrorist attack. But he said it was not time to "starting assigning blame."
Bulgaria will ask the U.N. Security Council to condemn the attack, perhaps Thursday, Mladenov said.
The bus was scheduled to carry about 47 passengers to a resort.
Another spokeswoman for the interior ministry said one possibility is that an explosive device could have been on the bus, but authorities cannot be sure of it. A forensic team has begun an investigation at the scene, but much work remains to be done, she said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed the finger at Iran, saying it has been behind a string of recent attempted attacks on Israelis in Thailand, India and Georgia, among others.
"All the signs (are) leading to Iran," he said, according to a statement from his office. "This is a global Iranian terror onslaught and Israel will react firmly to it."
Netanyahu said his country "would respond with force to Iranian terror." Bulgarian authorities also vowed to find out what happened.
Israel's intelligence minister told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that Israel has "very good indications" Iran was involved.
"They are after us, Israelis, wherever they can find them," said Dan Meridor. "It's an atrocity attack, against civilians. It needs to be stopped. We need to find out who did it and react promptly as we should."
Venelin Petkov, a reporter for bTV in Bulgaria, said that three of those taken to the hospital were in a critical condition.
The Israelis had just arrived from Tel Aviv and were supposed to go to a beach resort about 50 kilometers (30 miles) away, he said.
Local security expert Ivan Boyadjiev said on public Bulgarian National Television that Israel had warned of the possibility of an attack on Israeli citizens in Bulgaria several months ago. He said it was the first such incident he could remember in Bulgaria.
The explosion comes on the 18th anniversary of the attack on a Jewish community center in the Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were killed.
Argentina's top prosecutor last year blamed Iran for the 1994 attack, which also injured about 300 people. Israel also holds Iran responsible for the attack. Tehran has denied any connection to the bombing, which it has condemned.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Israel Radio Wednesday, "We cannot confirm yet that this is a terrorist incident, but Iran and Hezbollah have been responsible for incidents like this in the past."
U.S. President Barack Obama condemned what he called a "barbaric terrorist attack."
"As Israel has tragically once more been a target of terrorism, the United States reaffirms our unshakeable commitment to Israel's security, and our deep friendship and solidarity with the Israeli people," Obama said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States was prepared to assist Bulgaria and Israel.
The tourists' plane from Tel Aviv landed in Bulgaria at 5 p.m., the Israeli Foreign Ministry said. The flight carried 154 passengers, eight of them children.
Oren Katz, who was on a bus next to the one that blew up, together with his wife and three children, described a bloody scene.
"The moment we got on (the bus), we heard a very loud explosion. It was the third bus next to us. Everyone started running in all directions. There was a big chaos," he said.
"We took our children with us and ran as far as we could away from the explosion. My oldest daughter is handicapped, so I decided to run back in order to pick up her wheelchair.
"There was a big blaze of fire, and we were not allowed to come near. Suddenly, I noticed an unconscious woman laying next to me, very close to the burning bus. I picked her up together with another man, and we managed to drag her out of the fire that was about to catch her body in seconds.
"I cannot forget the sight of body parts scattered around the bus. Ambulances and fire trucks have just started to arrive."
Katz, who then ran back to his family so they could get to the safety of their hotel, said he saw at least six people around him who were injured and bloodied.
"I was not able to see anything of what was happening inside the bus that exploded. It was burning heavily," he added.
The travelers were on seven buses outside the terminal; they had arrived on the same flight from Israel, Katz said.
The Israeli military said it would send a medical team to Bulgaria.
The Jewish Federations of North America, an umbrella group for local Jewish groups across the United States, offered its condolences to the victims of Wednesday's blast.
"We are shocked and saddened by the bus bombing targeting innocent young Israelis traveling in Bulgaria," said Kathy Manning, chairwoman of the board of trustees, in a written statement.
"On behalf of The Jewish Federations, we offer our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and stand shoulder to shoulder with all of the Jewish People in condemning this horrific act of violence."