Europe

Calls Grow For E.U. To Blacklist Hezbollah As Bulgaria Prepares More Evidence on Bombing

Bulgarian investigators will conduct an experimental reenactment next month of the July 2012 bus bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian. The country’s officials in February linked the terrorist attack to the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah,and noted at the time that they would continue gathering evidence to still-unanswered questions in the case. The recreation is part and parcel of those efforts:

Investigating magistrate Georgi Iliev… informed that the preparation of the experimental reenactment was underway, adding that the Interior Ministry had been tasked with preparing a bomb with a similar make-up to the one used in the terror attack at the Sarafovo airport. Iliev noted that the reenactment of the bus bombing was to provide answers to a number of questions which had not been cleared yet.

The Bulgarian announcement comes as Cypriot authorities prepare to announce a verdict in the case of a confessed Hezbollah member who is on trial for multiple terrorism-related charges. Hossam Taleb Yaacoub is accused of, among other things, tracking the movements of Israeli tourists. Officials suspect that he was involved in an ultimately foiled plot mirroring the one in Burgas.

A guilty verdict in the Cyprus case, coupled with the Bulgarian investigation, would mark the second time in a few months that Hezbollah operatives were officially linked to terror attempts on European Union soil. It would come at a time when foreign policy analysts and former U.S. officials see an increasingly inescapable case for the E.U. formally blacklisting the group as a terrorist organization:

In short, an EU designation is critical, not only to send Hezbollah a clear message that it can no longer muddy the waters between politics and terrorism, but also because it would empower EU member states to open terrorism-specific investigations into the group’s activities — something many cannot or will not do today despite the resumption of attacks in Europe. The EU must show Hezbollah that there are consequences for its illicit conduct. Inaction or half-measures would only embolden the group to continue operating there as if it were business as usual.

Bulgaria’s caretaker government recently announced that it would “present the objective facts and circumstances and let our European partners decide” on blacklisting Hezbollah, though Sofia would not take the lead in pressing for a designation.

[Photo: PRESSCLUB IA / YouTube]