Hezbollah was implicated by the Bulgarian government Tuesday in a deadly bus bombing that occurred six months ago killing five Israeli tourists and the Bulgarian bus driver. This could have far-reaching implications on the Lebanese militant group’s status.
The United States, Israel, and several other countries already classify Hezbollah, a group with heavy Iranian backing and seats in the Lebanese Parliament, as a terrorist organization. Bulgaria’s recent claim against the group might pave the way for the European Union to join the United States and Israel in designating it as such.
Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said of two of the suspects, “We have followed their entire activities in Australia and Canada so we have information about financing and their membership in Hezbollah. A reasonable assumption can be made that the two of them were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah.”
Tsvetanov said that the suspects forged Michigan IDs and used forged documents for a car rental service, but entered the EU using their genuine passports, which were issued in Australia and Canada. The suspects had been living in Lebanon since 2006 and 2010, respectively.
Hezbollah, which emerged in Lebanon in response to Israel’s invasion of the country in 1982 during the Lebanese civil war, has been connected to attacks, kidnappings, and even a drone deployment. They allegedly tend to target Israeli interests around the world.
Hezbollah has previously denied the attack in Bulgaria, an EU member state, and offered no comment on the Bulgarian interior minister’s findings on Tuesday, reported The Associated Press. Normally only the group’s leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, is allowed to comment on security matters.
Israel blamed the July 2012 Burgas bus attack on Iran and Hezbollah. Israel had also blamed Hezbollah and Tehran for attacks in Thailand, Turkey, Kenya, India, Georgia, and Cyprus.
“The implications of the investigation need to be assessed seriously as they relate to a terrorist attack on EU soil,” said EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton in a statement. “The EU and member states will discuss the appropriate response based on all elements identified by the investigators.”
If the EU considers Hezbollah a terrorist group, it could freeze the group’s assets in Europe.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a prominent critic of Hezbollah, called on the EU to take action.
“The Bulgarian findings announced today are clear: Hezbollah was directly responsible for the atrocity. There is only one Hezbollah. It is one organization with one leadership,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “This is yet a further corroboration of what we have already known, that Hezbollah and its Iranian patrons are orchestrating a worldwide campaign of terror that is spanning countries and continents.”
Netanyahu also reiterated that Hezbollah is collaborating with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, another one of the group’s allies.
“The attack in Burgas was an attack on European soil against a member country of the EU. We hope that the Europeans draw the necessary conclusions as to the true character of Hezbollah,” he said.
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