How Bulgaria became a terrorist target
July 19th, 2012
01:55 PM ET

How Bulgaria became a terrorist target

By James Wither, Special to CNN

Editor's note: James Wither is professor of National Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. The views expressed are solely those of the author.

The bus bomb attack on Israeli tourists at Bulgaria’s Burgas Airport represents the first significant success for what some have alleged are Iranian-backed terrorists who have mounted a sustained campaign against Israeli diplomats and tourists around the world.

Just a few days before the Burgas attack, a suspected Hezbollah operative was reportedly arrested in Cyprus. He was found with information on resorts, flight schedules and tour bus companies frequented by Israeli tourists. However, the Israeli Counter Terrorism Bureau didn't issue a specific travel warning to tourists following this arrest.

Burgas Airport was an easy target, but arguably no easier than most other European airports. In Israel, airports have routine outer perimeter screening of passengers and visitors. In the absence of a specific warning, enhanced security of this kind is neither considered financially viable nor practicable for airport authorities elsewhere. Bulgarian security services have published security camera pictures of the suspect, a young, long-haired man with a backpack, who posed as a normal holiday traveler and hung around the airport for an hour before he placed the bomb in the hold of his chosen target bus.

Such an attack, then, could have been equally successful at hundreds of other airports around the world. So why was Bulgaria singled out?

Wednesday’s bombing is the first terrorist attack in Bulgaria since the Communist era. Unlike the U.K. or Spain, Bulgaria isn’t considered a key European target for international terrorists. Corruption and transnational crime represent much greater threats to Bulgarian security than terrorism. However, after the events of September 11, 2001, Bulgaria identified itself as a close ally of the United States and has maintained close diplomatic relations with Israel.

Since Bulgaria sent a contingent of troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan to demonstrate solidarity with the United States’ war on terror, Bulgarian security authorities have recognized that the country could become a target for terrorism.  Clearly, the Burgas bombing caught the Bulgarian security forces by surprise, perhaps not least because Bulgaria itself wasn’t the terrorists’ target.

As a precaution, Shin Bet has suspended flights from Israel to Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Greece, Turkey, Azerbaijan, South Africa and Thailand. If the Iranian-backed Hezbollah are, as claimed by Israel, behind the attack in Bulgaria, further attempts at terrorism against Israeli citizens abroad can be expected as a consequence of the long running proxy war between Israel and Iran. Bulgaria has become an increasingly popular tourist destination for Israelis, especially since relations between Israel and its former ally Turkey cooled.

All this means that Israeli tourists may be less inclined to book holidays to Bulgaria in the immediate future. But Israelis, arguably more than any other nationality, will recognize the truth of Kristalina Georgieva’s concluding remarks that terrorist attacks like this “can happen anywhere”.

The author is a U.S. government employee. The views presented in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Department of Defense or U.S. government.

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Topics: Europe • Iran • Israel • Terrorism

soundoff (293 Responses)
  1. Say it As You See It


    July 22, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Reply
    • Haleb

      Hope CIA and mossad are taking note

      July 23, 2012 at 11:22 am | Reply

    Based out of Goa, a western state with a substantial number of Christians and Jews, the Sanatan Sanstha provides the ideological base for Hindu militant groups. It has close links with the Sri Ram Sene and publishes a periodical, Sanatan Prabhat, which occasionally spews hate against Christians and Jews.

    July 22, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Reply
    • Haleb

      Wonder why the Indian government is not putting a stop to this terrorism against Jews and Christians.

      July 23, 2012 at 11:20 am | Reply
  3. krm1007 ©™

    The Aghori or Aghouri is a Hindu cult that is considered to have split off from the Kapalika order in the fourteenth century AD. They have cannibalistic rituals. The streets of northern Indian cities are littered with followers of this cult carrying a kapala, which is a cup made from a skull! These bizarre people will eat anything from rotten food to animal faeces. In order to achieve the highest citadel of enlightenment, the Aghori will perform horrendously crude rituals. The finality of their rituals is attained from eating the decaying flesh of a human.

    July 22, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Reply
  4. KRM1007

    Sadly Gandhi
    Among the various charges disclosed in the book: Gandhi not only slept in beds with young women under the age of 18, but also engaged in a long-term, gay affair with German-Jewish architect and bodybuilder Hermann Kallenbach, for whom India's peace icon at one point left his wife in 1908. As the Wall Street Journal reports

    July 22, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Reply
    • Hesperus

      Take the statues of pedophile Indian Mahatma Gandhi down from all locations in America just like we did of Joe Paterno. Put Gandhi on posthumous trial......for justice to prevail just like we did to Sandusky.

      July 22, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Reply
    • Patrick

      Gandhi was banging several boys at a time while spinning cotton wheels during daytime.

      July 22, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Reply
      • Patrick

        Looks like the ignoramus that keeps stealing my moniker is still at it.
        Monkey see, monkey do.
        You are an idiot.
        Watch your back.

        July 22, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  5. KRM1007

    This goddess was married to five brothers. Which one would become the legitimate father of his child should she have one? Dr Charles (renowned author and an authority on India) says that instances of incest are common in Hindu scriptures.

    July 22, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Reply
    • Kathy

      What a sick cult hinduism is

      July 23, 2012 at 11:25 am | Reply
  6. KRM1007

    I would think that it is prudent for all Israelis to stay away from India also as extremism is on the rise there and Christians, Muslims and Jews are at high risk of being targets of terroirsm.

    July 22, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Reply
  7. Gods Voice

    .Notwithstanding false smears, the nonsense about anti-Semitism does not work anymore because European Jews are NOT descendants of the ancient Hebrews of the Bible at all whereas both Palestinian Christians, and Palestinian Muslims are. The reality is that that term of anti-Semitism has been co-opted also because Israel-Firsters have duped good Christians into silence and into the most un-Christian acts that Precious (said like Golem in the Lord of the Rings), IsraHell has been doing against both Palestinian Christians and Palestinian Muslims to steal their lands! In fact, many American Jewish people themselves are sick of of how Israel-Firsters have corrupted Amrica's body politic, and put IsraHell's interests ahead of America's. The Palestinians are the direct descendants of the ancient Hebrews including Jesus himself and DNA evidence clearly shows that. Hate to bust yer bubble, but good Christians blindly supporting IsraHell have been working against God's Chosen People, and there will be no return of the Messiah (using their own religious theology), until the Chosen People, namely, millions of Palestinian Christians and Palestinian Muslims can returns the Promised Land from the refugee camps in which they reside in so many other countries! Anyway, here is some more information on Hitler's Jewish (both Ashkenazim and Sephardim) roots fer yer edification! How very sad that Jewish people in Europe were victimized by one of their own, namely, Hitler, huh? Talk about the poor Jewish people of Europe (may God bless their souls and take them into Heaven directly), being cannibalized, figuratively and literally by one of their own. As I said before, bruthah-Bob, the truth will dun set yu free (Praise be to the Almighty)!!!

    July 20, 2012 at 12:36 pm | couldn't have said it better myself.. thankyou!

    July 22, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Reply
  8. nick d.

    God simply has too many self appointed middlemen. I do not think he wants any of them.

    July 23, 2012 at 12:02 am | Reply
  9. mardjan

    This guy doesn't look like middle eastern to me. He has an American passport doesn't he? Then why are we looking for his nationality?

    July 23, 2012 at 5:59 am | Reply
    • nina

      We are not looking for his nationality.
      We know the only allegiance he has is to ISLAM.

      July 23, 2012 at 11:34 am | Reply
      • Perry

        he is a hindu...we also call them doozies.

        July 23, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  10. joe d

    why not and who cares?

    July 23, 2012 at 7:51 am | Reply
  11. Jacob

    Was this attacker a hindu from india?

    July 23, 2012 at 11:25 am | Reply
    • patrick @

      Roger that

      July 23, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Reply
  12. fischdog

    Bulgaria was an Allie of The Nazis. figures.

    July 24, 2012 at 10:00 am | Reply
    • nina

      Unlike some other Nazi Germany allies or German-occupied countries excluding Denmark, Bulgaria managed to save its entire 48,000-strong Jewish population during World War II from deportation to concentration camps, with Dimitar Peshev playing a crucial role in preventing the deportations, as well as Bulgarian Church officials and ordinary citizens. The story of the Bulgarian Jews during World War II has been told in "Beyond Hitler's Grasp: The Heroic Rescue of Bulgaria's Jews" by Michael Bar-Zohar, an Israeli historian, politician and former Knesset member who was born in Bulgaria. On the subject is also a book by Tzvetan Todorov, a French intellectual born in Bulgaria and the Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (C.N.R.S.) in Paris. Todorov wrote "The Fragility of Goodness: Why Bulgaria's Jews Survived the Holocaust" (published by Princeton Univ. Press), where he uses letters, diaries, government reports and memoirs to reconstruct what happened in Bulgaria during World War II, which led to the preservation of the lives of 50,000 Bulgarian Jews.

      July 24, 2012 at 11:59 am | Reply
  13. Walter Sieruk

    Why Bulgaria ?. Maybe the jihadists saw an opening to do their evil work. Also that jihadist who commited the murders on that Israeli tour bus not only becauce he hated the Jewish people because he has his mind pumped full of Islamic propaganda aganst them but also he was deluded enough to believe that he would end up in a paradise with many virgins, houris, for dying in a specific was forthe cause of Islam. This Quranic doctrine that the imams and mullahs indoctrinate [brainwash] into their students in the mosque. This Islamic doctrine of a place with virgins has its origin in Arabic and Zoroastrine mythology which is now part of the hoax of Islam which the imams ans mullahs mind program in the their students[victims] as "divine truth."
    Furthermore, such false teachers as these Muslims clerics teaching this type of falsehood to people was predicted in the BIble. Which reads "For the time will come when they will not stand whohesome teaching, but will follow their own fancy and gather a crowd of teachers to tickle their ears. They will stop their ears to the truth and turn to mythology." Second Timothy 4:3,4. [NEB]

    July 24, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Reply
  14. rightospeak

    Well, well. I mention the latest book by Solsenitsyn "200 Years Together" and the fact , that the Noble Price winner's book is only available in Russian and poof.... my comments disappear. Great job of censorship , guys.

    July 25, 2012 at 6:59 am | Reply
  15. Donell Wilson

    Everyone is always asking why? There is no why! People have this belief that terrorism happens overnight; this belief that countries that aren't involved in any conflicts or don't have any enemies are safe from attacks!! Wrong!! These groups are worldwide and in place awaiting orders! Infact the best place for these groups to attack are countries who believed they are immuned or exempt. Attacks will not always be gov't facilities, military bases, etc. Wake up and get the facts!!

    July 25, 2012 at 8:25 am | Reply
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  21. Samir S. Halabi

    I want to see Arab Muslims who have been caught after they have murdered Jews such as the Jewish tourists murdered by Arab Muslim Suicide bombers in Bulgaria, strung by their balls and then chopped to pieces, and fed to the vultures, this is who those slimebags should be dealt with.

    October 21, 2012 at 4:46 am | Reply
  22. detelindraganov

    I would like to know too.It is coming from outside and only investigation could tell.

    June 30, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Reply
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