News24

Bomb caused deadly Bulgaria bus blast

2012-07-18 22:10

Sofia - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised a tough response after 6 people died and 32 were wounded when a bomb exploded on a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria.

He called it "an Iranian terror attack".

The explosion took place in the Black Sea city of Bourgas. TV images showed smoke billowing from the scene - a parking lot at the local airport where the Israeli tourists had landed shortly before the blast. Several buses and cars were on fire near the shell of the exploded vehicle.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, after being briefed by his Bulgarian counterpart, said the explosion was caused by a bomb placed on the bus.

He said seven people died, but by Wednesday night the Bulgarian foreign ministry had placed the death toll at six and the number of wounded at 32 people.

No group immediately claimed responsibility.

But Israelis often have been targeted outside their country, and Wednesday's attack coincided with the 18th anniversary of the bombing of a Jewish community centre in Argentina that killed 85 people.

'Signs point to Iran'

The Israeli premier noted that Wednesday's attack followed similar attacks or attempted attacks in India, Georgia, Thailand and Kenya and Cyprus in recent months. He said that once again, "all signs point to Iran", though he did not offer any evidence to back up the claim.

"This is an Iranian terror attack that is spreading across the world," Netanyahu said.

"Israel will react strongly to Iran's terror."

The White House strongly condemned the attack, with President Barack Obama calling it "barbaric".

Tehran did not immediately issue any comment.

Bulgaria, which borders Greece and Turkey, is a favourite tourist destination for Israelis.

In recent years, Bourgas has become popular as an inexpensive haven for groups of Israeli teenagers taking trips after finishing high school and before their military service.

Lieberman said the bus was transporting tourists who had arrived in a charter flight from Israel. There were 154 people on the flight.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson Jonathan Rosenzweig said the flight was coming from Tel Aviv and landed at 16:45.

He said the blast took place about 40 minutes later as the tourists were apparently boarding the buses to go to their hotels.

The Bourgas airport was closed and traffic redirected.

In Sofia, meanwhile, Mayor Yordanka Fandakova ordered a stronger police presence at all public places linked to the Jewish community. There are about 5 000 Jews in Bulgaria and most live in the capital.