Bulgarian website names ‘US citizen David Jepson’ as suspected accomplice in Burgas attack

Unconfirmed report adds to confusion over bombing; other report says two accomplices still at large

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

Bulgarian policeman is seen in front of destroyed buses at Burgas Airport, Bulgaria on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 (photo credit: AP/Bulphoto Agency)
Bulgarian policeman is seen in front of destroyed buses at Burgas Airport, Bulgaria on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 (photo credit: AP/Bulphoto Agency)

A US citizen named David Jepson is suspected of having been an accomplice to last Wednesday’s terrorist attack at Burgas Airport, a Bulgarian news site reported on Sunday.

Jepson was based in the Bulgarian coastal city of Varna, north of Burgas, and gave “guidance” to the bomber, according to the report on the site novonite.com. The site stressed this information was unconfirmed.

It said Jepson was captured on CCTV footage at Varna airport at the end of June, had spent a few nights staying at a hotel near the Festival Congress Center in downtown Varna, and had disappeared since the bombing. Police suspect he is still in Bulgaria, the report claimed.

The name “David Jepson” first surfaced on Friday, in a report in the Hebrew daily Maariv. It claimed that Jepson is the man in the artist’s sketch being distributed by Bulgarian police. There have been conflicting reports as to whether the man in the sketch is believed by the Bulgarians to have been an accomplice to the bombing, or the bomber himself.

Maariv’s report on Friday claimed the Bulgarian authorities were searching frantically for Jepson because they believed he had a second bomb in his possession.

Artist's sketch of a man believed by Bulgarian authorities to have assisted the Burgas bomber. (photo credit: screen capture)
Artist’s sketch of a man believed by Bulgarian authorities to have assisted the Burgas bomber. (photo credit: screen capture)

Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said on Saturday that “there may have been a second man” directly involved in the bombing. “We have not ruled that out.”

The Bulgarian Daily Standard claimed Sunday that a second accomplice to the bomber might also still be at large. Both of the accomplices were at Burgas’s Sarafovo Airport at the time of the bombing, it said.

One of them was a back-up bomber ready to replace the bomber if things went wrong. The second one had orders to shoot one or both of the others in the event that they were caught by security officials, the report claimed.

Bulgarian officials last Thursday released CCTV footage filmed in the airport terminal of a long-haired western-looking man with a backpack who they said was the bomber. According to novonite, however, “a witness said on Friday the suspect was a dark-skinned man with short brown hair and an Arabic accent, and appeared to be wearing a wig.”

According to Bulgarian journalist Elena Yoncheva, meanwhile, the terrorists had planned for the backpack containing the bomb to detonate after the bus had set of from the airport terminal, not in the terminal parking lot where it did explode, so that “the death toll would have been much higher.”

The report added that the bomber had not intended to kill himself in the attack, but rather to plant the bomb and detonate it from afar.

Working with a local CNN team, Yoncheva pointed at a series of security faults at the Burgas airport, including the lack of security measures in the parking lot and surrounding areas.

Five Israelis and the bus driver were killed in the attack. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran and its proxy Hezbollah, saying it was the latest of many Iranian-directed attempts to attack Israeli targets across the globe.

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