The online news portal of TV5
SOFIA - At least six people were killed and many more wounded on Wednesday in an attack on a bus packed with Israelis at a Black Sea airport in Bulgaria that the government in Israel blamed on arch foe Iran.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "all signs point to Iran" after an official in Jerusalem said the bus carrying Israeli citizens at the Burgas airport was shot at and an explosive device thrown.
"Israel will respond forcefully to Iranian terror," Netanyahu said. "In the past few months we have seen attempts by Iran to harm Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus and other places."
The attack, the first on Bulgarian soil against Israelis, also drew strong condemnation from Israel's staunchest ally the United States and France.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that the United States "condemns such attacks on innocent people, especially children, in the strongest possible terms."
The attack came on the 18th anniversary of an attack on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people and wounded 300.
Israel also held Iran responsible back in 1994. The Islamic republic denied the charge and has accused Israel of being behind the assassinations of nuclear scientists in recent years.
"Six people were killed and over 30 were injured in a blast on a tourist bus near Sarafovo airport (in Burgas)," the Bulgarian foreign ministry said. "The Bulgarian authorities are investigating the theory it was a terrorist attack."
Burgas mayor Dimitar Nikolov, who was at the airport at the time, said the blast ripped through the bus as the tourists who had flown in from Israel were boarding and placing their bags in the luggage compartment, where he suspects the explosives might have been.
"I cannot say if it was an act of terrorism. The blast was very strong and in my view was triggered by a device which was deliberately set," Nikolov said.
Bulgaria's bNT television and the BGNES news agency's correspondent at the airport cited unnamed official sources as saying the number of dead was seven.
The blast occurred around 1400 GMT on the bus carrying Israelis who had flown in to Burgas, the second largest city on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, setting off a fire that spread to another two buses, the ministry said.
Pictures showed huge plumes of black smoke rising over the airport, which the ministry said had been closed after the incident. Television showed ambulances rushing people to hospital and women crying.
Israel and former communist Bulgaria enjoy good relations and the Black Sea coast has become a popular holiday spot for Israelis, with almost 140,000 visiting the country in 2011.
"I was on the bus and we had just sat down when after a few seconds we heard a really loud explosion," one Israeli tourist, Gal Malka, told Israeli army radio. "The whole bus went up in flames."
Aviva, another Israeli woman who was on a nearby bus, said she heard a "very loud explosion" and described seeing at least seven dead bodies.
"There are seven dead people," the woman told the radio, adding that she saw people whose clothes had been blown off by the blast and bodies lying on the floor.
"It was just terrible; people were jumping out of the windows," she said.
The bus had on board 47 out of 51 people who had just arrived on a plane from Israel including one American and a Slovenian. The foreign ministry said 154 Israelis arrived on Wednesday at Burgas airport including eight children.
In January, Israeli public television reported that Bulgarian authorities had foiled a bomb attack when they found an explosive device on a bus chartered to take Israeli tourists to a ski resort.
Bulgarian troops were deployed in several ski resorts frequented by Israeli tourists after the bomb was found, the report added.