Al-Qaeda emerges as Bulgaria bomb suspect

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

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As the Israeli government seizes on last week’s suicide bombing of a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria as an opportunity to discredit Iran and Hezbollah, the on-going investigation in Bulgaria is increasingly pointing the finger at a different culprit – al-Qaeda.

As reported in Lebanese media, an al-Qaeda cell has taken responsibility for the suicide bombing that took the lives of five Israeli vacationers, as well as a bus driver and a suicide bomber. [1] This has been corroborated by Bulgarian media reports that focus on two individuals, an American and a former Guantanamo inmate from Sweden with ties to al-Qaeda.

Although the DNA evidence is still under investigation, on Thursday when Bulgarian media began identifying the suspected suicide bomber as Mehdi Ghezali, US officials quickly rejected

this and insisted that “there was no evidence” linking him with the bomb. The same “anonymous” US officials simultaneously told the New York Times that this was a “tit-for-tat” Hezbollah job launched by Iran in revenge for Israel killing Iranian nuclear scientists.

Emboldened by the US government’s endorsement of his allegations against Hezbollah, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wasted no time in appealing to the European Union to add Hezbollah to its list of terrorist organizations, while vowing massive retaliation for the attack.

Citing Iran’s “global terror campaign against Israel,” Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders have insisted there is “rock solid” evidence linking Iran and Hezbollah to the bus attack, despite Bulgarian officials finding no conclusive evidence of such a link.

Netanyahu’s comparison of this bus attack and bombings aimed at the Israeli interests, elsewhere, such as in India, is contradicted by the fact that the suicide bombing method used in this instance is markedly different to the “sticky bombs” used on cars in previous attacks.

Israel has no dearth of enemies – Palestinians and even Turkey’s Kurdish insurgents are unhappy with Israel’s cooperation with Ankara in the latter’s counterinsurgency efforts. But above all there is al-Qaeda, which has been resurrecting itself in the volatile Arab world.

Troubling questions
At this point, much depends on the objectivity of the investigation by Bulgaria. However, the country’s police failed to conduct extensive interviews of Israeli witnesses before they were rushed out of the country by the Israeli Defense Force. The IDF also quickly sent bodies back home before Bulgarian authorities had any chance to conduct an autopsy.

Bulgarian police also shouldn’t have allowed the Israeli emergency workers to approach the scene of crime and collect bodies, as the various photos displayed in the Israeli media clearly show.

Close scrutiny of those photos reveals that two white buses were badly damaged by the bombing, one had broken windows and was relatively intact while the main target bus was completely gutted by the explosion and fire.

Somehow, the photos of victims from the adjacent bus surprisingly show almost no sign of serious injuries: several are shown walking or on stretchers, some with only bandaged hands or feet, likely attributable to their attempt to jump down the broken windows. [2]

Given the sharp contrast between the image of inferno in the main bus [3] and the light injuries suffered by the majority of passengers, it is only logical to conclude that the 30 or so wounded were from the other bus, thus raising the question of what happened to the passengers of the main bus, given related reports that say some 172 Israelis had just landed and were taking three to four buses?

Is it possible that we are dealing with explosion at an empty bus that merely impacted the adjacent bus, particularly since the photos do not show any evidence of piled luggage at or near the main bus? This is a question of pure mathematics, in the light of “32 wounded” reported by the Bulgarian police. How did, then, five Israelis end up dead, along with the bus diver?

There are, unfortunately, other troubling questions raised as well, such as how some Israeli passengers ended up telling Israeli media that those who were killed were sitting in the back of the bus, while the driver at the front was killed by the explosion?

While awaiting the result of further investigation in Bulgaria, it seems clear that there is no way so many passengers would escape with little or no injuries – with many rushing to the airport “without clothes and shoes” – if they were from the same bus that was exploded and then filled with smoke and fire

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