Burgas Bulgaria Terror Attack Could Be the Handiwork of Hezbollah

There are few specific details about Wednesday’s bombing in Bulgaria. What we know so far is that five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver have perished in what seems to be a suicide bombing, given the presence of a seventh body that still needs to be formally identified.

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has claimed this to be the work of Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah, an accusation that has been voiced by several US officials as well, albeit off the record. The question is, how likely are these claims to be true and what are the implications of this attack?

Are Iran’s Quds Force and Hezbollah the culprits? Given the recent assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and cyber attacks through viruses such as Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame, and the subsequent terrorist plots against Israeli targets in Thailand, India, and Georgia that have been linked to Iran, it is possible that this is a successful payback attempt in an increasingly violent covert war between Israel and Iran. The fake Michigan driver’s licence found on the crime scene might also be an indication that a message has been addressed to the US administration. Finally, there is the coincidence with the anniversary of the AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people, most of them Jewish, and attributed to Hezbollah.

This is all circumstantial evidence, but nevertheless should be taken into consideration given the current climate of animosity between the countries.

What next? Assuming that such a connection is confirmed, this would firstly mean that future actions would be seen as retaliatory and added to a possibly never-ending cycle of violence in which civilians are likely to suffer. Reaching any kind of agreement will then be much more complicated.

Secondly, Hezbollah is currently part of the Lebanese government and its strategy needs to be assessed in the wider context of national political rivalries. Is it in their interest to appear as reopening a front with Israel at a time where its ally Syria is in danger? Some would argue in that sense and there is indeed a rationale for it. 

At this stage, there are, however, other points to be taken into consideration:

- Hezbollah has not used suicide tactics in a long time and the degree of sophistication of the attack is relatively low considering the capabilities of the organization and its previous actions.

- Many groups have a grudge towards Israel and other terrorist links should also be taken into consideration before jumping to conclusions.

- The fact that the suspect is Caucasian could point towards Sunni groups that have used converts in the past, compared to Hezbollah, who often sticks to its fellow Shia coreligionist.

Amid all the speculation regarding this event, the best thing to do is to avoid hasty conclusions and monitor the Bulgarian investigation closely.

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Naeem Meer

After graduating from King's College London with a BA in War Studies, Naeem took a year off to work in India, Germany, South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania and Lebanon. He then completed an MSc in International Public Policy at University College London and is now working for a research company in Kabul. His interests are foreign affairs (the Middle East in particular), the European Union, Islamism and radicalisation.

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