At least seven people were killed and some 30 others were injured Wednesday in a terror attack on a bus carrying Israelis in Burgas, some 400 kilometers east of the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. Bulgarian media reported that the explosion took place while the bus was still in the terminal of Sarafovo Airport.
Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said police were investigating two possible causes of the blast - that an explosive device was put in the bus before the tourists boarded or that the explosives were in the tourists' luggage.
The explosion occurred at around 5 pm, as Israeli tourists who arrived in Burgas on a charter flight boarded buses that were supposed to transport them to a local hotel. The blast took place on only one of the buses.
According to media reports, an 11-year-old child and two pregnant women were among the injured. Fortunately, the pregnant women were lightly injured. The evacuation of the injured has been completed.
According to the Magen David Adom emergency services, some 30 Israelis were injured in the attack - three are in serious to critical condition.
The Foreign Ministry said six people were killed when the blast went off, and another person died at the hospital. Bulgarian news agencies said a tour guide and the driver of the bus were among those killed.
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Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has called for a situation assessment following the attack. He was also briefed on the available details by Bulgarian FM Nikolay Mladenov.
Scene of explosion at Burgas airport
Following the attack, the Shin Ben has suspended all flights bound for Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Greece, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev said that during a meeting held about a month ago, Mossad representatives did not warn Bulgarian officials of the possibility of a terror attack, the Sofia News Agency reported.
Plevneliev stressed that Bulgarian authorities took all the appropriate measures to protect the terror attack victims.
However, Ynet's military analyst Ron Ben-Yishai said a warning regarding a similar attack in Burgas was lifted some two months ago.
Security sources said that there was no intelligence indicating that Israelis traveling in the area may fall prey to terror attacks.
"An explosion occurred in a passenger bus with Israeli citizens at the Burgas Airport," Burgas Mayor Dimitar Nikoliv confirmed. Bulgarian security forces and emergency medical teams have blocked off the area. The airport has been closed as well.
The blast took place at 5.30 pm, on one of three buses shuttling Israeli tourists across the terminal. Bulgarian media aired conflicting reports on the nature of the explosion – whether it was perpetrated by a suicide bomber or by an explosive device, detonated remotely.
'Bus next to ours just exploded.' Scene of terror attack
The Foreign Ministry has formed a team of experts that will fly to Burgas and assist local authorities in the investigation.
The Israeli Embassy in Sofia has been mobilized and is ready to assist the team, which includes ZAKA disaster recovery officials, in identifying the victims and ensuring that the injured and other Israelis that were unharmed return to Israel as soon as possible.
Bus explosion in Burgas
"The murderous Iranian terror continues to target innocent people. Iranian terror is spreading worldwide... Israel will react to it with force," he said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak added that the Israeli defense establishment will not rest until the perpetrators are apprehended.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz has opened the ministry's situation room at Ben Gurion International Airport following the massive change in incoming and outgoing flights schedule.
As a precautionary measure, the Aviation Authority has ordered to delay 11 Europe-bound flights after a terror threat was made against flights heading to the continent. In Bulgaria, flights headed to Israel have been delayed as well.
An eyewitness told Channel 2 News that Bulgarian authorities were slow to respond to the event, adding that search and rescue teams and paramedics "didn’t seem to care too much. They took a while getting these two small fire-extinguishers to fight a burning bus, and the airport's fire truck took over 15 minutes to get there."
Shosh Eyler, who was on one of the buses that escaped the blast, told Ynet that the blast took place seconds after the groups boarded the buses. "The bus next to ours just exploded. There was smoke everywhere and people were running hysterically. We got off the bus and local security officers got everyone into the terminal immediately."
Burgas is the second-largest city on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast and a favorite summer destination for Israeli tourists.
The explosion comes on the 18th anniversary of a 1994 bomb attack on the headquarters of Argentina's main Jewish organisation by an Iranian-backed Hezbollah suicide bomber, which killed 85 people.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon on Israel's Channel 2 TV said there was no advance intelligence on an attack in Bulgaria.
But counterterrorism expert Boaz Ganor said Iran and Hezbollah were the most likely culprits. He told The Associated Press that all the indications pointed toward them. He also cited the arrest of a Hezbollah operative in Cyprus in recent days who was suspected of preparing a similar attack.
"This is probably a parallel operation and likely not the last in a series," he said. "All this looks like Hezbollah, Iran or a combination of the two."
Shahar Chai, Carmit Reuven, AP and Reuters contributed to the report
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