Suicide bomber dressed as US tourist to kill Israelis

The suicide bomber who killed five Israelis in an attack at a Bulgarian airport was captured on CCTV cameras disguised as an American tourist moments before the attack.

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The suicide bomber who killed five Israelis in an attack at a Bulgarian airport was captured on CCTV cameras disguised as an American tourist moments before the attack.

As Israel blamed the attack on Hizbollah, intelligence agencies were attempting to ascertain the identity of the man on Thursday using his DNA.

The Bulgarian authorities released security camera footage of the bomber wandering in and out of the terminal of Burgas airport shortly before the blast, searching for his target of an Israeli tourist bus.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, accused Hizbollah of carrying out the attack and signalled that retaliatory action would follow.

Seven people - five Israelis, the Bulgarian driver and the unidentified bomber - died in the blast on Wednesday.

The attacker was identified by Bulgarian media, quoting Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Bulgaria's interior minister, as Mehdi Ghezali, a Swedish citizen of Algerian descent.

Ghezali, 33, briefly studied in Britain under Omar Bakri Muhammad, the extremist Islamist preacher, and spent two years in Guantanamo Bay accused of links to al-Qaeda.

However, Mark Vadasz, head of communications at Swedish intelligence agency SAPO, later said the reports were mistaken.

"I can confirm that it's not Mehdi Ghezali. I can't go into any more details of the subject. I can't comment on that person, but we're focusing on this case, and we can confirm that it's not him." British and US intelligence sources said they were still investigating the reports.

The suicide bomber, in his mid-30s, assumed the cover of an archetypal American tourist, his face masked by sunglasses and the peak of a baseball, as he blended into the crowd with his blue adidas T-shirt, plaid Bermuda shorts and trainers with short white socks.

Indistinguishable from other tourists travelling to the nearby Sunny Beach resort on Bulgaria's popular Black Sea coast, he carried a large backpack with wheels that contained a bomb that he would explode minutes later after boarding a coach carrying Israelis.

Bearing a fake Michigan driver's license, with a Baton Rouge address, the suicide bomber, described as "a Caucasian" is believed to have travelled to Bulgaria from another EU country within the last week.

"He looked like anyone else - a normal person with Bermuda shorts and a backpack," said Tsvetanov. "We cannot exclude the possibility that he had logistical support on Bulgarian territory."

Last night, Bulgarian, FBI and Israeli terrorism investigators were working to establish the bomber's identity from his DNA and fingerprints amid fears that the bombing is the beginning of a new European terror campaign at the height of the tourist season.

According to one Bulgarian television report, Mossad, the Israeli secret service has taken charge of the dismembered bomber's head in a race against the clock to identify him.

Mark Regev, the Israeli government spokesman linked the attack to an arrest in Cyprus earlier this month of a 24-year-old Lebanese man on suspicion of plotting an attack on Israeli tourists there with the Bulgaria bombing.

"The suspect who was arrested in Cyprus, in his interrogation, revealed an operational plan that is almost identical to what happened in Bulgaria. He is from Hizbollah," he said.

"This is a further indication of Hizbollah and Iran's direct responsibility."

The Cypriot police announced last night that the island is beefing up security to protect tens of thousands of Israeli tourists and residents.

"Cyprus has taken additional measures at various places where there are Israeli interests in the light of the attack in Bulgaria," said Andreas Angelides, the spokesman for the Cypriot police.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's Prime Minister, last night formally accused Hizbollah, described as "Iran's leading terrorist proxy," of carrying out the attack and signalled that retaliatory action would follow.

"We will continue to chase after the attackers and extract a heavy price," he said.

Iran has responded by condemning "all terrorist acts in the world". "The Islamic republic, the biggest victim of terrorism, believes terrorism endangers the lives of innocents is inhumane and so strongly condemns it," said Ramin Mehmanparast, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman.

The Bulgarian suicide bomber targeted Israelis who had just arrived on a charter flight from Tel Aviv carrying 154 people, including eight children.

The tourists had arrived in Bulgaria on a charter flight from Israel and were on the bus in the airport car park when the blast tore through the vehicle. "It felt like an earthquake and then I saw flying pieces of meat," said Georgi Stoev, an airport official. "It was horrible."

Moshe Moseri, an Israeli survivor of the attack, told the Walla news website that in the aftermath of the bomb there were "corpses on the floor with their arms and legs severed".

"I would have lost my life in a split second, had I not jumped out of the bus window," he said.

Bulgarian medical officials said two critically injured Israeli tourists are being treated in hospitals in the country's capital Sofia.

One woman was in intensive care with head and chest injuries and a man was in a critical state with burns covering 55 per cent of his body.

More than 30 Israelis who were wounded in the attack arrived back in Tel Aviv after being flown home by the Israeli air force yesterday afternoon (Thursday).

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