AL MONITOR, NEW YORK TIMES (U.S.), JERUSALEM POST (Israel), THE GLOBE AND MAIL (Canada)
SOFIA- The case of five Israeli tourists killed in a July bombing in Bulgaria is anything but closed. The Bulgarian government's findings this week that the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah was responsible for the bombing, which also killed the Bulgarian bus driver and one of the attackers, has set off a series of worldwide criminal and diplomatic pursuits. Israel, for one, hopes that confirmation of a Hezbollah attack on European soil will prompt Europe's leaders to join the US and others as classifying the "Party of God" as a terrorist organization.
Hunting down bombers: Following months of investigations, law enforcement and intelligence officials from several countries are working to find the two presumed Hezbollah members - a Canadian and Australian, both of Lebanese descent -- who are believed to be behind the bombing, reports the New York Times. The terrorists made several crucial mistakes that allowed detectives to retrace their steps – including the death of the third accomplice who was never intended to die, The Globe and Mail writes.
Canada and Australia in pursuit According to The Globe and Mail, Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said that if “you are much more devoted to Hezbollah than you are to Canada, or law and order or the security of your fellow citizens, maybe we should take a hint.” Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr, said in a statement Wednesday that “the Australian Federal Police has worked with Bulgarian authorities in pursuit of those responsible for the bombing.”
Israel reacts: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the indictment and accused Hezbollah of having built a “worldwide terrorist network.” He declared, “It’s time to name Hezbollah as a terrorist organization...We hope the Europeans learn the proper conclusions from this about the true character of Hezbollah,” Al Monitor reports.
Hezbollah flag - Photo: upyernoz
Europe mostly mum : Netanyahu’s call to EU leaders to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization has not fallen on deaf ears, but Europe is acutely aware that it will have serious implications. France, Italy, Spain and other EU nations are currently involved in UN peacekeeping operations in southern Lebanon where Hezbollah is strong, states the Jerusalem Post. The French argue that designating Hezbollah a terrorist group could potentially destabilize the Lebanese government, which is due for elections later this year. A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that there will be “consequences” if the Hezbollah link to the Bulgarian bus bombing is conclusively proven.
U.S. Encouragement: Recently anointed US Secretary of State John Kerry added a push across the pond: “We strongly urge other governments around the world – and particularly our partners in Europe – to take immediate action to crack down on Hezbollah. We need to send an unequivocal message to this terrorist group that it can no longer engage in despicable actions with impunity.”
Hezbollah "compass": The Islamist group has yet to officially respond to the accusations. But the Jerusalem Post reports that Hezbollah deputy leader Sheik Naim Qassem told religious students in southern Beirut that: "Israel is leading an international campaign to intimidate people and countries against Hezbollah. All these accusations against Hezbollah will have no effect, and do not change the facts. We will not submit to these pressures and we will not change our priorities. Our compass will remain directed towards Israel."
Israeli pressure?: Financial Times journalist Borzou Daragahi tweeted Tuesday “I don't doubt Hezbollah/Iran could be behind Bulgaria bombing, but also think Israel could pay Sofia to say anything.” He included a URL of a Reuters article quoting Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov as blaming two Hezbollah operatives for the July 18 bus bombing in Burgas. He later apologized and deleted the tweet.
Sincere apologies and regret for ill-conceived Tweet yesterday about Israel and Bulgaria— Borzou Daragahi (@borzou) February 6, 2013