US puts Burgas bombing suspects on special terror blacklist
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US puts Burgas bombing suspects on special terror blacklist

State Department decision against Hezbollah operatives freezes their US assets, bars transactions

These head-shots provided by the Bulgarian Interior Ministry shows Canadian citizen Hassan El Hajj Hassan, right, and Australian citizen Meliad Farah, also known as Hussein Hussein, left, both suspected of being involved in the July 2012 Burgas bombing. (photo credit: courtesy Bulgarian Interior Ministry)
These head-shots provided by the Bulgarian Interior Ministry shows Canadian citizen Hassan El Hajj Hassan, right, and Australian citizen Meliad Farah, also known as Hussein Hussein, left, both suspected of being involved in the July 2012 Burgas bombing. (photo credit: courtesy Bulgarian Interior Ministry)

Three Hezbollah operatives — two of whom are accused in a deadly 2012 bombing targeting Israeli tourists in Bulgaria — were placed on a special US terror watch list, Washington announced Tuesday.

The State Department named Meliad Farah, Hassan el-Hajj Hassan and Hussein Atris as “specially designated global terrorists.”

The designation effectively means no US persons are allowed to engage in transactions with the three, and freezes all property and interests of Farah, Hassan, and Atris that are in the US or come within the US or the possession or control of US persons.

Farah, an Australian national, and Hassan, a Canadian national, were both publicly identified with the bombing at the airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, on July 18, 2012, in which six people were killed — five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian citizen.

Atris is a member of Hezbollah’s overseas terrorism unit and in 2012, he was arrested in Thailand in connection with a terror warning about a possible attack in Bangkok.

Farrah and Hassan are both believed to be in Lebanon.

Bulgaria has submitted an extradition request to Lebanon, but has not received an answer, according to the German DPA news agency.

The Burgas attack was attributed to Hezbollah, which is backed financially and politically by Iran, and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States.

Israeli emergency workers carry a body bag away from the site of the Burgas attack. (Dano Monkotovic/FLASH90/JTA)
Israeli emergency workers carry a body bag away from the site of the Burgas attack. (Dano Monkotovic/FLASH90/JTA)

Following the attack and subsequent discovery of the connection to Hezbollah, the European Union in late July officially labeled Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist organization. The decision to blacklist the organization was decided by a unanimous vote among the EU’s 28 foreign ministers.

When captured in Bangkok, Atris was found to be hiding nearly three tons of ammonium nitrate, a component in the manufacture of explosives. In 2013, a Thai court sentenced Atris to two years and eight months in prison for illegally possessing the materials. He was released in September 2014, and traveled to Sweden and later Lebanon, where he is believed to reside.

Hezbollah has been listed on the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list since 1997.

In March, an annual report delivered recently to the US Senate by James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, removed Iran and Hezbollah from its list of terrorism threats, after years in which they featured in similar reports.

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