Hours after the fatal terror attack against Israeli tourists in Burgas Bulgaria there was speculation, speculation if the blast was a terrorist attack or not, speculation if the blast was a stationary bomb placed in a bus or possible a suicide bomber or both. Investigators are now stating with a measure of certainty that the attack was the work of a suicide bomber. Another theory is the bomber placed the bomb and planned to escape before the blast, but he was killed nonetheless. One of the seven bodies at the scene is that of the suicide bomber. Another body is that of a local bus driver and the remainder is the bodies of Israelis murdered in the attack. Zaka and IDF officials are seeing to identification and preparing the bodies for transport home for kvura.
The initial theory according to Bulgarian security officials is that a lone suicide bomber armed with forged identification managed to evade security in the Burgas airport and make his way to the buses waiting to meet the Israeli group of 154 travelers. The group left Ben-Gurion International Airport on Wednesday 28 Tammuz 5772 at 14:30, landing in Burgas at 16:45.
Bulgarian security officials reported they believe the suicide bomber joined the group as they were making their way to the buses after getting their luggage. Airport surveillance camera footage shows the suicide bomber in the airport. One should understand that unlike in Ben-Gurion International Airport, that local airport is open to anyone wishing to enter and shop, making it relatively simple for the bomber. It is believed that while they were in a restaurant the bomber managed to meld into the group without being detected.
The bomber appears to have been dressed more or less like other tourists, wearing shorts and carrying a backpack. It has already been learned that the bomber was carrying a forged drivers license and a forged US passport, from Michigan.
Israeli forensic experts are operating in the airport at the attack scene, which is now secured by IDF forces operating in the airport in uniform. Government officials in Israel commend the level of cooperation from local security, law-enforcement and diplomatic officials.
Once realizing the explosion was most likely a terror attack aimed against Israelis, Bulgaria’s foreign minister, president, minister of the interior and other senior officials headed for the airport and began contacting the appropriate ministers in Israel. Some 200,000 Israelis visit Bulgaria annually, most during the summer months.
70-year-old Shimon Avraham took part in the organized tour along with a companion. He explained that the got their luggage and completed their preliminary briefing and were heading to the buses to depart the airport for their hotel. He got on the bus with his companion but once he understood that they were waiting for the others, to fill the bus, he got off and decided to make use of the time for a smoke.
The four buses began filling and the luggage compartments were left open to permit passengers to place their baggage in the compartment. Shimon explains that at 17:05, while all the buses were still in the waiting area a powerful explosion was heard. The blast was on bus number 2, “and I felt the force of the explosion” Shimon told Yediot Achronot.
Oren Katz, who was on board bus number 3 with his children, one wheelchair bound, explains “We were thrown inside the bus from the force of the explosion”.
“The scene was one of panic. I grabbed my children and we ran for hundreds of meters hoping to get away to safety. We even left the wheelchair behind”.
When the blast occurred on bus number 2, there were 47 people on board, including children and infants.
Shoshi Eiler, a tour guide from Ashdod who was bus number 4 along with her son explains “It was awful but I immediately understood. It was a bus of Israelis being targeted by terrorists. We knew there were people injured but we did not know if anyone was killed at that time. We ran away from there as quickly as we could”.
Aviva Savila explains “We did not know what to do or how to help the wounded. One woman, an Israeli, was standing there with her dress torn simply shouting ‘where am I’.”
A number of survivors told officials that looking back, seconds before the blast they realized a person boarded the bus who “did not belong, someone not from the group”, most likely the suicide bomber.
Based on the hole in the side of the bus, it is theorized that the terrorist placed the bomb against the side of the vehicle, perhaps intending to get out before the blast.
Rami Barness, a resident of Netanya was on the bus furthest from the blast. “We heard the explosion and I immediately shouted ‘pigua’ (terror attack), explaining for him there was no doubt. The first thing we saw was acrid black smoke coming from the bus”.
In Israel officials report that 5 of the 7 people killed are Israelis. The other bodies are the local bus driver and the bomber. One IAF plane is heading to Sofia with medical personnel on board to treat the seriously injured victims hospitalized there. There are two people in serious condition and it appears a third that is moderate-to-serious. 34 other survivors are being flown home by the Israel Air Force, which is operating in Burgas under heavy security.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)