Iranians targeted after Israelis killed in Bulgaria. Reports indicate that the Israelis were traveling in a bus when it exploded., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
July 18, 2012
6 Israelis Killed in Bulgaria; Netanyahu Blames Iranians
By NICHOLAS KULISH and MATTHEW BRUNWASSER
New York Times
BERLIN — A bus carrying Israeli tourists exploded in a fireball on Wednesday outside an airport in the Bulgarian city of Burgas, killing at least six people and wounding dozens more in what Bulgaria, Israel and the United States called a terrorist attack. Israel quickly blamed Iran.
Photographs and video taken at the airport showed billowing black smoke from the explosion that left the bus a blackened skeleton, scorched several buses nearby, shattered windows and forced the airport to temporarily close. Eyewitnesses quoted by Israeli news media said some victims were on fire as they tried to escape the flaming bus and that many had suffered severe burns.
The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said on its Web site that the country’s president, foreign minister and interior minister rushed to the scene and that the authorities were working on the theory that the explosion “was a terrorist attack” but did not specify who might be responsible.
In Washington, President Obama said in a statement that he strongly condemned “today’s barbaric terrorist attack on Israelis in Bulgaria.”
The Foreign Ministry said at least six people were killed and 30 were wounded. At least four victims ferried to the local hospital had suffered burns and shrapnel injuries, a hospital official said. All the victims were Israeli except for the Bulgarian tour operator.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel convened security consultations following the bus explosion, which he called a “terror attack in Bulgaria.”
“All signs point to Iran,” Mr. Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office.
There was no immediate comment from Iran. But Mr. Netanyahu and other Israeli officials pointed out that the bus explosion came on the 18th anniversary of a bombing of an Argentine Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded hundreds, an attack that Argentine prosecutors have blamed on Iran.
Bellicose adversaries, Israel and Iran have a long history of accusing each other of terrorist attacks. Iran has blamed Israeli agents for a string of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists over the past five years, for which Iran has vowed revenge. Israel has accused Iranian agents of attacks on a range of Israeli tourists and diplomats in at least a half-dozen places around the globe.
“Over the last few months we have seen Iran’s attempts to attack Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus and other countries,” Mr. Netanyahu’s statement said. He called the pattern a “global Iranian terror onslaught and Israel will react firmly to it.”
Burgas, on the Black Sea, is a popular destination for Israelis. The explosion occurred outside the arrivals terminal shortly after the victims arrived via a charter flight from Tel Aviv with 154 people including eight children.
“We were just getting on the bus when suddenly someone came near the bus’s front door and exploded,” Gal Malka, who was aboard the bus when it exploded, told a television station. “We heard a boom and next thing we saw were body parts scattered on the ground, there were wounded people also on the ground. I could see a burned hole in the side of the bus.”
The bus went up in flames following an explosion. Others described an explosion powerful enough to shatter windows. A spokesman for Israel’s private search and rescue organization, ZAKA, said it was preparing to send a medical team to Bulgaria.
Burgas is roughly 250 miles east of the capital of Sofia. In recent years Burgas has become popular as an inexpensive destination for groups of Israeli teenagers taking trips after finishing high school and before their military service.
Oren Katz, another Israeli eyewitness, described tamping down the flames of a woman who had caught fire. “It was strange that there were so many security people around but none of them seemed to be focused on actually helping the wounded people, and couldn’t believe that I of all people was the one taking care of this burning woman and stopping her from burning up.”
Nicholas Kulish reported from Berlin and Matthew Brunwasser from Istanbul. Jodi Rudoren, Gabby Sobelman and Isabel Kershner contributed reporting from Jerusalem.