U.S. officials: Hezbollah attacked Israelis in Bulgaria to retaliate for killing of Iran nuclear scientists
Speaking to the New York Times, U.S. official calls Burgas suicide bombing a ‘tit for tat’ attack; Netanyahu: Iran, its protégé Hezbollah, have been waging an international terror campaign.
The suicide bomber who attacked Israeli tourists in Bulgaria earlier this week was an Hezbollah operative, U.S. officials told the New York Times late Thursday, adding that the bombing was ordered by Iran in order to avenge assassinations targeting its nuclear scientists.
Speaking on the attack earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday’s attack in the coastal city of Burgas, in which five Israelis were killed, was carried out by Hezbollah with Iranian backing.
“We will pursue the attackers and extract a heavy price from those who sent them,” Netanyahu said, adding, “We will continue fighting Iranian terror, we will act against it with great force.”
“For over a year, Iran, along with its protégé Hezbollah, has been waging an international terror campaign,” he said, calling Iran “the world’s number one exporter of terror” and Hezbollah its “long arm.”
Netanyahu said Iran and Hezbollah were responsible for a number of attacks and attempted attacks against Israeli targets, in Thailand, Georgia, India, Greece, Cyprus and other countries.
On Thursday, in what seems like the first confirmation of Israel’s suspicions concerning the source and perpetrator of the attack, U.S. officials told the New York Times that the man identified the suicide bomber was a member of a Hezbollah terror cell.
One official speaking to the U.S. daily said that current assessments were that the bomber acted “under broad guidance” to strike Israeli targets when possible, and that guidance for the operation was provided by Tehran.
Moreover, the official said that the attack was ordered to retaliate for the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, for which Iran has been blaming Israel and the U.S.
“This was tit for tat,” the official, speaking under condition of anonymity, told the New York Times. Two other officials confirmed that Hezbollah perpetrated the bombing.
The report came after Iran denied it was linked to the attack, saying it condemns all terrorism.
“Iran’s position is to condemn all terrorist acts in the world,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told Iranian Arabic-language television station al-Alam, according to a report published by Saudi news channel al-Arabiya.
“The Islamic republic, the biggest victim of terrorism, believes terrorism endangers the lives of innocents... is inhumane and so strongly condemns [it],”Mehmanparast was quoted as saying.
Earlier this month, officials in Kenya said that two Iranian agents arrested with explosives planned to attack Israeli, American, British or Saudi Arabian targets inside Kenya.
The officials said that the plot appears to fit into a global pattern of attacks or attempted attacks by Iranian agents, mostly against Israeli interests.
Kenyan security forces arrested Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad and Sayed Mansour Mousavi last week with 15 kilograms of RDX, a powerful explosive, in the coastal city of Mombasa. Several hotels on the coast are Israeli-owned.
One official said the Iranians are members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force, an elite and secretive unit. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing security issues.
Responding to the reported Iranian terror plot, Netanyahu said at the time that the uncovered plot proved the "Iranian terror threat was boundless."