Ex-CIA spy says Hezbollah has been active in Bulgaria for decades

Robert Baer tells Bulgarian TV he personally investigated a Hezbollah cell in Bulgaria in the 1990s

An Israeli ZAKA emergency rescue team at the site of the terrorist attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, on July 19, 2012 (photo credit: Dano Monkotovic/Flash90)
An Israeli ZAKA emergency rescue team at the site of the terrorist attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, on July 19, 2012 (photo credit: Dano Monkotovic/Flash90)

A former CIA agent famous for his on-the-ground intelligence said Sunday that Hezbollah had been operating in Bulgaria for decades, but warned that investigators in Sofia probing a deadly bus bombing should not jump to conclusions about Iran.

Robert Baer, who spent time in Lebanon while a case officer for the US spy agency, told Bulgaria’s bTV that investigators shouldn’t rely on the US or Israel to help find the perpetrators behind a bus bombing in Burgas last month that left five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver dead, as both countries had an interest in placing blame on Iran.

“You cannot receive an objective answer from them. Both the USA and Israel want to lead a war against Iran,” he told the station.

However, he said, the terrorist Hezbollah organization, based in Lebanon, had been operating in Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries since the 1980s.

In the wake of the bombing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed the finger at Hezbollah and Iran, which he said was behind a series of attacks and attempted attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets around the world in the last year. Hezbollah is often seen as an Iranian proxy organization.

So far, Bulgarian investigators have been unable to identify the suicide bomber or any accomplices, though they have released two computer generated sketches of what the men may look like.

Despite the lack of progress, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said last week that he was pleased with how the probe was moving forward.

“It will take time, sometimes years, to uncover the whole mechanism behind the attack,” he told AFP.

Baer, who left the CIA in 1998 and has since become a writer and analyst for several publications, told the Sofia station that he had knowledge of a Hezbollah cell operating in Bulgaria decades ago.

“They had a network and I have personally participated in investigating a group of theirs on your territory in the 1990s,” said Baer.

On Thursday, the New York Times reported that Hezbollah, considered a political organization by the European Union, had been given free rein to operate throughout Europe.

“They have real, trained operatives in Europe that have not been used in a long time, but if they wanted them to become active, they could,” Alexander Ritzmann, a policy adviser in Brussels, told the paper.

Baer also cautioned that the disagreement between the US and Israel over how to tackle Iran’s nuclear program may impede the investigation.

“If Washington has reliable proof against Iran, they might not want to share with Israel, if the United States are not yet willing to hit Iran,” he said.

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