Bulgarian media on Thursday named the suicide bomber who blew up a bus full of Israeli tourists, killing five Israelis and a local bus driver, in the Black Sea resort of Burgas on Wednesday as 36-year-old Mehdi Ghezali. The reports were later denied by several sources.
Ghezali reportedly arrived in Bulgaria five weeks before the bombing and arrived at the airport via taxi, Channel 2 reported. He was also reportedly given the bomb by someone else, but no further details were provided.
There was no independent confirmation of the veracity of the information. The reports surfaced soon after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had publicly accused Hezbollah, directed by Iran, of responsibility for the bombing. The Prime Minister’s Office made no comment on the reports.
The Bulgarian reports, rapidly picked up by Hebrew media, posited various versions of how the bomber had detonated the bomb, including the suggestion that the bomber had not intended to die in the blast, but may have wanted to place the bomb on the bus and flee.
Ghezali has a Wikipedia page, which describes him as a Swedish citizen, with Algerian and Finnish origins. He had been held at the US’s Guantanamo Bay detainment camp on Cuba from 2002 to 2004, having previously studied at a Muslim religious school and mosque in Britain, and traveled to Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, it says. He was taken into custody on suspicion of being an al-Qaeda agent, having been arrested along with a number of other al-Qaeda operatives.
Following a lobbying effort by Swedish prime minister Göran Persson, Guantanamo authorities recommended Ghezali be transferred to another country for continued detainment, and he was handed over to Swedish authorities in 2004. The Swedish government did not press charges.
A 2005 Swedish documentary about the Guantanamo Bay detention camp starred Ghezali, who detailed his experience in American custody.
He was also reportedly among 12 foreigners captured trying to cross into Afghanistan in 2009.
Earlier on Thursday the Bulgarian police released a brief video clip that claimed to show the suicide bomber, responsible for Wednesday’s terror attack on a tour bus full of Israeli citizens, walking around shortly before the blast at Burgas International Airport.
The Bulgarian news agency Sofia reported that the bomber was carrying an American passport and Michigan driver’s license, both believed to be forgeries.
Sofia also reported that the Bulgarian Interior Ministry managed to recover the fingerprints of the bomber, which they submitted to the FBI in the United States and the international police organization Interpol. The FBI and CIA joined Israeli and Bulgarian officials in investigating the attack.
Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told Sofia that DNA tests were being run to determine the identity of the Caucasian man, who the minister described as casually dressed with nothing suspicious about his appearance to set him apart from the crowd of people at the airport.
The ministry did not indicate how the police came to the conclusion that the man was the suicide bomber.