Autopsy of Burgas Bomber Doesn't Fit Some Witness Accounts

Officials: Flights arriving from Israel will not be publicly announced, and Israeli passengers will be kept in separate and secure areas.

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SOFIA, Bulgaria - Autopsies have provided some new information about the suicide bomber who killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver in Burgas last week, a local official said yesterday. While the identity of the attacker is still unknown, Bulgaria's government continues to investigate who he was and whether he carried out the attack with an accomplice.

Israel has asked other countries in Europe to increase security in parking lots used by Israelis and at airports; Bulgarian police have stepped up security at their country's airports. From now on, flights arriving from Israel will not be publicly announced, and Israeli passengers will be kept in separate and secure areas, officials said.

"The State of Israel is responsible for its citizens wherever they are," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the cabinet yesterday. "We will continue to fight against terrorism, against the perpetrators and those who dispatch them."

Dr. Galina Mleva, a forensic expert who took part in autopsies on the victims and the attacker, told Bulgarian National TV that the bomber did not meet the description of some witnesses, raising the possibility they had seen an accomplice. Mileva said the bomber "had a white face, light eyes, and very thick brown hair."

On Friday, district prosecutor Kalina Tchapkanova cited witness reports that the suspect had dark eyes.

Security camera footage just before the attack showed the suspected bomber wandering around the bus terminal in Burgas, wearing a baseball cap over long hair, T-shirt and plaid shorts. His bulky backpack was packed with TNT powder.

Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told reporters last week the bomber was thought to be about 36 years old and had been in the country between four to seven days.

Bulgarian prosecutors have said a man tried to rent a car a few days before the bombing but was turned down because his ID appeared suspicious. Authorities examined his fingerprints, his DNA and his fake Michigan driver's license. They said the man actually had short hair. It was not clear if it was the suspected bomber wearing a wig, or if it was a different person.

Afrodita Petrova, the owner of the car rental company, told Bulgarian National TV that the suspect had short dark hair when he appeared in the office. She said he was the same person seen in the video camera footage and that he had appeared to be wearing a wig.

"He spoke English with an Arab accent," she added.

Tsvetanov has said the investigation ruled out the possibility that the bomber was a Bulgarian citizen, but he did not say how authorities know that. "Now we are focused on finding out the identity of the suicide bomber," he said.

A delegation of Israeli tourism officials, led by Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, is due to leave for Bulgaria today to send out a "business as usual" message: not to give in to terrorism and to strengthen Israel's tourism relationship with Bulgaria.

"Terrorism will not disrupt our lives and stop our aspirations," said Misezhnikov. "Tourism is a bridge to peace, understanding and dialogue between nations and it has the power to strengthen our mutual relationship with the Bulgarian people and the Bulgarian government. We extend our gratitude to the Bulgarian government for its dedicated treatment following the tragic terror attack."

The damaged bus following the suicide attack on Israeli tourists at Burgas airport, Bulgaria, July 19, 2012.Credit: AP

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