Bulgarian officials on Monday dismissed the leader of an investigation into last year's bomb attack in the coastal city of Burgas that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver for revealing sensitive information about the probe to the media.
Last week, Stanelia Karadzhova told Bulgaria's 24 Chasa daily that one of three suspected terrorists who carried out the attack at the airport of the Black Sea city in July has been identified and that all the suspects were foreign nationals.
The office of the District Prosecutor in Burgas said in a statement Monday that Karadzhova was removed because "she spoke to the media without clearing her statement with the supervising prosecutor."
Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov refused to comment on the details provided in the interview, saying "they are a matter of national security." The ministry's chief secretary, Kalin Georgiev, cautioned that any comments about the investigation at this stage would be "dangerous."
On July 18, 2012, a bomb ripped through a bus that was carrying tourists from the airport to their hotel in the seaside resort. Two weeks later, Bulgarian police released what they described as a computer-generated image of the suicide attacker involved in the bombing.
Israel has claimed that Iran and the militant group Hezbollah played roles in the attack. But six months after the attack, no one has been arrested in the case, and Bulgarian officials had remained tightlipped about it, saying they would not point a finger at anyone without solid evidence.
That changed on Thursday when 24 Chasa quoted Karadzhova as providing key details about the probe.
She said three suspected terrorists, all foreign, carried out the attack with no known local accomplices. She said one of those suspects has been identified by authorities and is being sought with an arrest warrant. "We know his country of origin and that he has not lived there for the past six years," she was quoted as saying.
Karadzhova said new evidence suggests the bombing was not a suicide attack, as previously believed, because the bomber's moves ahead of the attack indicated he did not intend to die. Karadzhova said the bomber either pushed a button on the explosives by mistake, or somebody triggered the blast remotely.
She said the three suspects carried similar fake ID cards, had never been seen together, and may have used phones or laptops to communicate with one another. Another common factor, she said, was their "identical way of life with just few needs, very ordered and simple, like in the army, which suggests they had the same type of training."
She said Bulgaria's investigators will re-enact the attack by blowing up a bus in search of more details.
The announcement of her dismissal as the lead investigator in the case came after Georgiev, accompanied by senior police and anti-terrorist officials, departed on Monday for a three-day visit to Israel. An official statement about the visit said the investigation of the Burgas attack is one issue that will be discussed with Israeli officials. Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev also has called a meeting of the National Security Council on Jan. 17 during which results of the investigation are expected to be discussed.