25 Jul 2012
Bulgarian security services thwarted a terror attack on Israeli vacationers several months ago, Israel’s tourism minister said Monday.
Stas Misezhnikov, visiting Bulgaria in the wake of a terror attack in resort town Burgas that left five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver dead, said he had been informed of the foiled attack two days earlier by Israeli officials.
“I learned that the Bulgarian intelligence prevented a terrorist attack that was planned several months ago. Unfortunately, such things happen, and out of 100 tries, one can be successful. Unfortunately, the cost in human lives is very, very dear,” Misezhnikov said, according to the Sofia News agency, which quoted local news service BGNES.
In January, a transportation ministry official told Bulgarian news that a suspicious package, thought to be a bomb, was found on a tour bus of Israelis traveling from Turkey to Bulgaria. In the wake of the report, security was bolstered around the winter resort town on Bansko, which is popular with vacationing Israelis.
Bulgarian officials at the time denied the reports, with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov asking reporters to refrain from publishing such claims, for fear of damaging the country’s tourism industry and ties with Arab countries.
It was not immediately clear if this was the attack Misezhnikov was referring to.
The minister was in Bulgaria for a one-day trip intended to bolster Israeli tourism to the Black Sea country. Misezhnikov met with Borisov, Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev and members of the Jewish Community. He was scheduled to hold a memorial at the site of the attack at Burgas airport on Tuesday morning and meet with the governors and mayors of Burgas and Varna.
The seaside towns are popular among Israeli vacationers. In 2011 almost 140,000 Israelis visited the country, while roughly 8,000 Bulgarians visited Israel. According to ministry figures, during the first half of 2012, the number of Bulgarian tourists in Israel increased by 11 percent.
Since the attack on July 18, Bulgaria has received 32 charter flights from Israel, Bulgarian Economy Minister Delyan Dobrev said Monday.
Misezhnikov called on Israelis to keep visiting the country since meeting people from other countries and visiting different cultures was important, adding that “tourism is a bridge to peace.”
“Terrorism will not disrupt our lives and stop our aspirations,” the minister said in a statement.