Hezbollah Link to Bombing Doubted

In assessing murky terrorism cases in the Middle East, one must take into account the political pressures on investigators and journalists to push the conclusion in a favored direction. That truism has surfaced again in a bombing at the Bulgarian resort of Burgas, says Gareth Porter for Inter Press Service.

By Gareth Porter

When European Union foreign ministers discuss a proposal to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov will present his government’s case for linking two suspects in the July 18, 2012, bombing of an Israeli tourist bus to Hezbollah.

But European ministers who demand hard evidence of Hezbollah involvement are not likely to find it in the Bulgarian report on the investigation, which has produced no more than an “assumption” or “hypothesis” of Hezbollah complicity. Major revelations about the investigation by the former head of the probe and by a top Bulgarian journalist have further damaged the credibility of the Bulgarian claim to have found links between the suspects and Hezbollah.

Bulgarian police sketch of a man believed to be either an accomplice or the bomber in a terror bombing aimed at Israeli tourists in the resort town of Burgas on July 18, 2012.

The chief prosecutor in charge of the Bulgarian investigation revealed in an interview published in early January that the evidence available was too scarce to name any party as responsible, and that investigators had found a key piece of evidence that appeared to contradict it. An article in a Bulgarian weekly in mid-January confirmed that the investigation had turned up no information on a Hezbollah role, and further reported that one of the suspects had been linked by a friendly intelligence service to Al-Qaeda.

The statement made on Feb. 5 by Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov referred to what he called a “reasonable assumption” or as a “well-founded assumption,” depending on the translation, that two suspects in the case belonged to Hezbollah’s “military formation.”

Underlining the extremely tentative nature of the finding, Tsvetanov used the passive voice and repeated the carefully chosen formulation for emphasis: “A reasonable assumption, I repeat a reasonable assumption, can be made that the two of them were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah.”

The host of a Bulgarian television talk show asked Tsvetanov on Feb. 9 why the conclusion about Hezbollah had been presented as “only a guess”. But instead of refuting that description, Tsvetanov chose to call the tentative judgment a “grounded hypothesis for the complicity of the Hezbollah military wing.”

The reason why the senior official responsible for Bulgarian security used such cautious language became clear from an interview given by the chief prosecutor for the case, Stanella Karadzhova, who was in charge of the investigation, published by “24 Hours” newspaper on Jan. 3.

Karadzhova revealed how little was known about the two men who investigators believe helped the foreigner killed by the bomb he was carrying, but whom Tsvetanov would later link to Hezbollah. The reason, she explained, is that they had apparently traveled without cell phones or laptops.

Only two kinds of information appear to have linked the two, according to the Karadzhova interview, neither of which provides insight into their political affiliation. One was that both of them had led a “very ordered and simple” lifestyle, which she suggested could mean that they both had similar training.  The other was that both had fake Michigan driver’s licenses that had come from the same country. It was reported subsequently that the printer used to make the fake Michigan driver’s licenses had been traced to Beirut.

Those fragments of information were evidently the sole basis for the “hypothesis” that that two of the suspects were members of Hezbollah’s military wing. That hypothesis depended on logical leaps from the information. Any jihadist organization could have obtained fake licenses from the Beirut factory, and a simple lifestyle does not equal Hezbollah military training.

But Karadzhova’s biggest revelation was that investigators had found a SIM card at the scene of the bombing and had hoped it would provide data on the suspect’s contacts before they had arrived at the scene of the bombing. But the telecom company in question was Maroc Telecom, and the Moroccan firm had not responded to requests for that information.

That provenance of the SIM card is damaging to the Hezbollah “hypothesis”, because Maroc Telecom sells its cards throughout North Africa a region in which Hezbollah is not known to have any operational bases but where Al-Qaeda has a number of large organizations. Morocco is also considered a “staunch ally” of the United States, so it is unlikely that the Moroccan government would have refused a request from the United States to get the necessary cooperation from Moroccan Telecom.

Senior Bulgarian officials have remained mum about the SIM Card, and Karadzhova was sacked as chief prosecutor shortly after the interview was published, ostensibly because the interview had not been approved.

On Jan. 17, the sister publication of “24 Hours,” the weekly “168 Hours,” published an article by its editor, Slavi Angelov, reporting that the Bulgarian investigators had failed to find any evidence of Hezbollah involvement. Angelov, one of the country’s premier investigative journalists, also wrote that one of the two suspects whose fake IDs were traced to Beirut had been linked by a “closely allied intelligence service” to a wing of Al-Qaeda.

The story, which is not available on the Internet but was summarized on the “24 Hours” website, earned a brief reference in a Jan. 17 story in the “Jerusalem Post”. That story referred to Angelov’s sources for the information about the Al-Qaeda link as unnamed officials in the Interior Ministry. The Angelov story’s revelation that Bulgaria had no evidence linking Hezbollah to the bus bombing was also headlined by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on the same day.

By the time the investigation’s four-month extension was due to expire on Jan. 18, there was no question among investigators that they needed much more time to reach any meaningful judgment on who was responsible for the bombing. Chief prosecutor Karadzhova told “24 Hours” there was “no obstacle to the deadline being extended repeatedly.”

But by mid-January, international politics posed such an obstacle: the United States and Israel were already pointing to the Feb. 18 meeting of EU foreign ministers as an opportunity to get action by the EU on listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Washington and Tel Aviv wanted a conclusion from the Bulgarians that could be used at that meeting to force the issue.

A meeting of Bulgaria’s Consultative Council for National Security to consider extending the investigation, originally scheduled for Jan. 17, was suddenly postponed. Instead, on that date Foreign Minister Mladenov was sent on an unannounced visit to Israel. Israel’s Channel 2 reported after the meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror that Bulgaria had given Israel a report blaming Hezbollah for the bus bombing.

The office of the Bulgarian foreign minister and Prime Minister Boyko Borissov both issued denials on Jan. 18. Borissov said there would be no comment on the investigation until “indisputable evidence has been discovered,” implying that it did not have the needed evidence yet. Nevertheless, over the next three weeks, the Bulgarian government had to negotiate the wording of what it would say about the conclusion of its investigation.

The decision to call the conclusion an “assumption” or even the weaker “hypothesis” about Hezbollah was obviously a compromise between the preference of the investigators themselves and the demands of the United States and Israel. And the discovery of the SIM card could not have caused the investigators to veer toward Hezbollah but would have called that hypothesis into question.

Tsvetanov admitted that the Hezbollah “assumption” had been adopted only “after the middle of January.” That admission indicates that the decision was reached under pressure from Washington, not because of any new evidence.

Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specializing in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan.


5 comments for “Hezbollah Link to Bombing Doubted

  1. Rehmat
    February 18, 2013 at 11:13 am

    The greatest proven terrorist organizations in the Middle East and around the world are CIA and Mossad. However, it’s antisemitism in the West to say that truth.

    Mossad carried out the Burgas false flag operation in Israel’s desparate move to get Hizballah classified as a “terrorist organization” by the European Union. The EU had rejected ealier appeal by former Zionist defence minister Gen. Ehu Barak, Hillary Clinton and John Brennan. EU has claimed that there was no valid proof that Hizballah was involved in terrorist activities in Europe. Furthemore, it stated that Hizballah is a major political party in Lebanon and part of country’s government.

    Mossad selected Bulgaria due to country’s extremist Judeo-Christian groups which are openly hostile to Muslims as legacy of Ottomon empire’s rule over Bulgaria in the past. Bulgaria also has a long history of close relations with the organized Jewry. Bulgaria’s 50,000-strong Jewish community has unique history under Nazi occupation. Professor Michael Bar Oar (Emory University) has claimed in his 1998 book ‘Beyond Hitler’s Grasp’ that no Bulgarian Jew was sent to Nazi concentration camps. In 1999, Abraham Foxman visited Sophia and donated 30,000 copies of the book for distribution in Bulgaria. Former Mayor of Sofia, Boyko Borisov, is the current prime minister of Bulgaria.

    On April 6, 2012 – Bulgarian parliament ratify a military cooperation agreement with the Zionist entity. The agreement will allow Bulgarian armed and security personnel to be trained in Israel and have joint military excercises in both countries.

    The implication of Hizballah in Burgas bombing by Netanyahu is ridiculous – as Sofia’s “official investigation” in the bombing is still in progress. The lie was also supported by the good-old ‘Israel-Firster’ Canadian foreign minister, John Baird. Baird had claimed that that a Canadian dual national based in Lebanon has been linked to the bombing. The “unknown Canadian” has not lived in Canada for the last two decades, according to Baird.

    Hizballah is declared “terrorist organization” by three countries, the US, Canada and Israel, out of 193 members of the United Nations.


  2. rosemerry
    February 18, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Another point is the ridiculous “Mr identikit” picture of the suspect, who could be almost any man in the world.

  3. timothy von Fuelling Straus
    February 18, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Gladio—CIA, NATO controlled right wing terror blamed on whomever best suits the issues that require public opinion to become enraged about–simple, we do it all of the time and have for the past 50 years.

  4. Rehmat
    February 18, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    Israel has also blamed Hizballah for the bombing of a Jewish center and Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1994 and 1992. Argentine courts have failed to indict Hizballah for lack of testimonies or due to corruption found in country’s judicial system. Earlier this month, the foreign ministers of Argentina and Iran signed an agreement to establish a joint Truth Commission to investigate the bombing. For this act of “atisemitism” – Israeli propagandists have called Argentina’s Jewish foreign minister Hector Timmerman “a self-hating Jew” and have blamed Argentina’s first woman president Cristina Kirchner for selling her soul to the “devil”.

    One wonder, why the Zionist regime and Jewish groups are so affraid of the “truth commission” – unless they know that the two bombing incidents were carried out by Israeli agents with the help of local Jewish leaders.


  5. F. G. Sanford
    February 19, 2013 at 5:32 am

    I was looking again at the caption under the picture attached to this article. Not that it matters now, but “terror bombing aimed at Israeli tourists” is as much a jump to conclusions as any other assumption absent concrete evidence. It’s a pretty safe bet to say, “The terror bombing was aimed at a tour bus”. Blowing up a bus is certainly a terrorist act. Assigning a motive in the absence of evidence is an attempt to exploit its political significance.

Comments are closed.