Police struggle to identify Bulgaria suicide bomber

Police struggle to identify Bulgaria suicide bomber
# 20 July 2012 21:43 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Bulgarian police, the FBI and Interpol struggled Friday to identify a suicide bomber 48 hours after he killed six people including five Israelis, as the US said the attack bore the "hallmarks" of Hezbollahm APA reports quoting AFP.

Investigators have released CCTV footage of the person they believe carried out Wednesday’s attack in the Black Sea airport of Burgas on a bus carrying Israeli holiday-makers, which also claimed the life of the Bulgarian driver.

With two days having passed and a team of investigators in Bulgaria, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov on Friday was only able to say that the bomber was "not a Bulgarian citizen" and had been in the country "not less than four days."

Detectives "are working very actively on Wednesday’s terrorist attack. There will be more information within three or four days," Prime Minister Boyko Borissov told parliament.

Emotional funerals were held Friday across Israel for Kochava Shriki, 44, who was pregnant, Yitzhik Kolengi, Amir Menashe, Elior Priess and Maor Harush, all in their 20s.

"I want to thank you for being my brother, for sharing my room for 20 years, for the jokes we made together," Kolengi’s brother said at a ceremony attended by hundreds braving sweltering heat in Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv.

Bulgarian driver Mustafa Kyosov, 36, was also laid to rest in his southwestern home village of Yurukovo according to traditional Muslim rites.

More than 30 people were also injured, three of them seriously, all of whom have since been repatriated, as have around 60 others who escaped injury. Some opted to continue their holiday in the Black Sea resorts popular with Israelis.

Airport video footage released by Bulgarian authorities showed an apparently white male with long hair, possibly a wig, dressed in typical holiday gear -- shorts, a baseball cap, sneakers -- and carrying a backpack and a laptop bag.

Tsvetanov said the man, who was shown wandering around the airport, looked around 36. Investigators have recovered a driving licence from the US state of Michigan that is thought to be fake.

The name on the licence, an image of which was shown on Bulgarian television, is Jacque Felipe Martin of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, born in 1987.

Investigators have taken fingerprints from the bomber’s body and are trying to find a DNA match.

Kalina Tchapkanova, a Bulgarian prosecutor, was quoted by bTV television as saying that the day before the attack the suspect had tried to hire a car in nearby Pomorie but was refused because of doubts about his driving licence.

She cited witnesses as saying he spoke English with an accent, possibly an Arab one.

"We have interviewed the taxi driver who took him to the airport in the afternoon. He also took a taxi in the morning to carry out reconnaissance," the prosecutor said.

The owners of the car rental agency said however that the man who tried to hire a vehicle had very short hair, dark skin and "looked like an Arab." He also did not resemble the photo on the licence, which showed someone with long hair.

Interpol has sent an "incident response team" to Bulgaria including two "terrorism" experts from Switzerland and France and a US explosives specialist. European police agency Europol was also assisting.

Israel has blamed Iran and Tehran’s "terrorist proxy" Hezbollah, saying it fitted a pattern of other recent attacks or attempted attacks on Israelis including in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya and Cyprus.

The Islamic Republic, already under pressure over growing international tensions over its nuclear programme, rejected Israel’s accusations as "ridiculous".

"The attack does bear some of the hallmarks of Hezbollah but we’re not in a position to make any final determination on who was responsible," Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters on Friday.

US President Barack Obama, who had a 30-minute phone conversation with Borissov on Friday, Sofia said, has condemned what he called a "barbaric terrorist attack," echoing indignation from around the world.

The explosion ripped through the bus as around 50 Israeli tourists arriving from Tel Aviv were loading their bags before travelling to a nearby holiday and gambling resort.

The bomber struck on the 18th anniversary of an attack on a Jewish community centre in Argentina that killed 85 people.

The burnt-out shell of the bus was taken away on Thursday evening and Burgas airport reopened shortly afterward under heavy security.

Later however, procedures returned to what they had been previously, an AFP correspondent reported, with Israeli tourists boarding buses in the same place as where the attack took place with no additional security.