Israelis in Bulgaria reportedly faced threats of terror attacks earlier this year that were similar in nature to the attack Wednesday on a bus-full of Israeli tourists, although Bulgarian officials denied the reports at the time.
In early January, Israeli media reported that a suspicious package, which later turned out to have been a bomb, was found aboard a bus carrying Israeli tourists from Turkey to Bulgaria. Interior Ministry officials in Sofia denied the report, according to the Sofia News Agency.
Wednesday’s attack, which killed seven Israelis in the airport of the popular resort town of Burgas, pointed to a similar modus operandi.
In the wake of the reports of discovery of the bomb in January, Bulgarian media reported that security had been bolstered around the winter resort town of Bansko, which is also popular with vacationing Israelis. The move was made at the request of Jerusalem, after the package was found on the bus, Israeli Transportation Ministry official Dan Shenar told Bulgarian media at the time.
Bulgaria denied that report as well, and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov asked reporters to refrain from publishing such claims, for fear of damaging the country’s tourism industry and ties with Arab countries.
Israel also reportedly warned Sofia in February of possible attacks on Israeli interests in the country on the anniversary of the assassination of Hezbollah mastermind Imad Mughniyeh, for which the terror group blames Israel.
While Bulgaria was not targeted in February, a number of attempted attacks on Israeli targets in India, Georgia and Thailand that month have been tied to Iran in preliminary investigations. A number of other plots against Israeli and Jewish interests abroad have been thwarted since then, including in Cypress and Kenya. Israel has pointed to Iran, looking to strike at soft Israeli targets, as the culprit. Iran was also blamed for Wednesday’s attack in Burgas.
In mid-February, Iran threatened to attack any country harboring Israeli or US interests. Some saw the threat as an allusion to Bulgaria, which gives the US access to four army bases.
The statement by Revolutionary Guards commander Hossein Salami came during a visit to Bulgaria by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Bulgarian media reported ahead of the visit that Clinton would ask to use one of the bases for a strike against Iran.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov vowed at the time that bases on Bulgarian soil would not be used for an attack on Iran.