JERUSALEM -- Israel and the United States on Tuesday urged the European Union to declare the Lebanese group Hezbollah a terrorist organization after the Bulgarian government announced that Hezbollah militants were behind the bombing of a tour bus last July that killed five Israeli tourists in that country.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Europe to draw the "proper conclusions" from the investigation into the blast, which found that a Hezbollah cell that included a Canadian and an Australian had carried out the attack at the airport in the coastal city of Burgas.
"The attack in Burgas was an attack on European land against a member of the European Union. We hope the Europeans learn the proper conclusions from this about the true character of Hezbollah," Netanyahu said.
The White House echoed the Israeli premier’s statements, with President Barak Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, calling on European countries to take "proactive action" to uncover Hezbollah’s infrastructure, financing and operational networks in Europe.
European officials were more cautious. Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s high representative for foreign policy, issued a statement that said the “implications of the investigation need to be assessed seriously as they relate to a terrorist attack on EU soil.”
There was no immediate reaction from Hezbollah, and the group’s spokesman was unavailable for comment. Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most powerful political player, previously had denied involvement in the bombing. After the Bulgarian findings were announced, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned the attack and said his country would cooperate fully in any investigation.
The release of the Bulgarian findings was the first definitive word on the July 18 attack. Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said investigators had determined that Hezbollah, a militant Shiite Muslim movement sworn to Israel’s destruction, had plotted and carried out the "sophisticated" attack.
They said they were seeking more information on two suspects who are apparently still at large.
"We have established that the two were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah," Tsvetanov said. "There is data showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects."
Tsvetanov said Bulgaria had established that they "had Canadian and Australian passports, (and) lived in Lebanon since 2006 and 2010."
He said the two suspects and a third person had used counterfeit Michigan driver’s licenses manufactured in Lebanon to rent hotel rooms and cars in the weeks before the attack.
"From these three fake personalities, we established beyond doubt two persons’ real identity," Tsvetanov said.
Tsvetanov didn’t identify the two individuals, but Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird told reporters in that country that one was a Canadian-Lebanese dual national who’s thought to be still at large. He declined, however, to provide the suspect’s name. "I can confirm the individual in question is a dual national who resides in Lebanon,” he said.
There was no comment from the Australian government.
DNA and fingerprints were taken from the third attacker, who died when the bag he was carrying exploded on the bus, which was carrying Israeli tourists at the Burgas airport.