By Ioannis Michaletos | Initially the bomber was named as “Mehdi Ghezali”, who was detained at Goundanamo in Cuba from 2002 to 2004. His father had met with Abdolrahman Barzanjee, an Al Qaeda associate and Ansar Al-Islam’s coordinator for Europe. Ghazali was friends with a Swedish operative who was a close associate of Abu Zubadayah, a high-ranking official with Al Qaeda.
He was released to Sweden on July 8, 2004. Ghazali joined a July 4, 2006 demonstration held outside the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay facility. He was arrested in September of 2009 in Punjab, Pakistan, on suspicions of having ties to al-Qaeda; Pakistani police chief Mohammad Rizwan described Ghezali as “a very dangerous man”. But the Swedish newspaper The Local described his actions as “a harmless meeting with a Muslim revivalist movement, Tablighi Jamaat.” In any case the Swedish authorities were keen not to keep a close eye on him despite the series of warnings that he posed a serious threat to international security.
As of 23/07/2012 his involvement has not been confirmed and the Sweidh authorities have denied his involvement, although himself has not appeared in public. Moreover, it is interesting to note that on July 22, it was reported that Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, the official who is in charge of the investigation, “denied rumors in the international media about the bomber’s identity and said there was no proof that Hezbollah was behind the attack.” Furthermore, Burgas prosecutor Kalina Tchapkanova quoted witnesses who said that the perpetrator “spoke English with a slight accent” and appeared to be Arab, while the wife of the owner of a car rental service said she was sure that the perpetrator was of Arab origin, and that he had a shaved head.
The Balkan region has a colorful recent history regarding the existence of Jihadist and terrorist networks that are directly related to the ones in the Middle East. The biggest influx was noted in the 90′s Yugoslavic war, and since then the threat was evolved.
The issue has gathered importance in the beginning of 2010 when the Israeli foreign minister, made explicit remarks on the issue, whilst an interesting aspect has emerged through many information channels that relates to the existence of direct Hezbollah ties in the Balkans and most specifically in Albania.
Moreover, at a meeting with FYROM’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski in January, the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that the Balkan states were the new target of global jihad.
“Current reports clearly indicate that the region of the Balkans is the new target of global jihad, which intends to establish infrastructure and recruit activists there,” Lieberman said. “That is seen from the attempts of certain Islamists, in particular Saudi organizations that are transferring their funds to Africa and South America in order to bring them to the regions inhabited by Bosnians and Albanians,” he added.
Furhermore, in a special report by the French daily “Le Figaro”, on the 21st of December 2010, the case of the route of Islamic terrorists from Lebanon to Europe was noted with significant details.
The article titled “Liban-une filiere djihadiste vers l’Europe”, clearly illustrated the perils involved for Greece as well. More specifically, the Lebanese Army Cornell Mahmoud Issa noted to the French journalists that since November 2010, some 20 extremists managed to escape from a camp where they were kept in Lebanon and found their way to the EU.
He stated that already the authorities were notified in an international level, although he admitted that this is a difficult task. From their part, the French security authorities believe that this is the case of a new Jihad mission heading towards European metropolises.
In classified documents that were in possession of radical groups in Lebanon, it was noted, that the individuals named: Karoum Imad Youssef, Ahmad Kayed and Sidawa, managed to leave the camp previously and through Syria and Turkey ventured up to Greece and Bulgaria with the assistance of illegal immigrant transport networks managed by Turks.
Moreover they managed to acquire fake ID’s and they were finally caught by a common operation of the Bulgarian and Greek authorities. That case according to many reliable sources was closely monitored by the British and French intelligence, due to the fact that these two countries was the ultimate destination of the Lebanese group. Mahmoud Issa, states that more cases are to be found that evade the authorities so far. In the article Greece is mentioned as a traverse region from where potential terrorists travel on their way to other EU countries.
Also, in February 2011, Galeb Taleb, a Lebanese national residing as an illegal immigrant in Athens, was arrested by the authorities where it was revealed he was a member of the Fatah al -Islam group. The Italian newspaper Corriera De la Sera, noted that he was on the move for a strike in the EU. In 2008 Mohammed Moussa was arrested in Greece, who is allegedly involved in a strike against govermental authorities in Lebanon earlier that year. It is also of interest to note that one of the leaders of Fatah al -Islam, Abou Adnan, had lived in Greece in the past and recommended to his followers the country as a passage to Europe. In the meantime several other members of the group are speculated they have spread across different European cities.
The aforementioned groups, are Lebanese-Syrian Takfiri ones and are according to all available information involved in the Syrian civil war currently. In parallel Syrian opposition rebels had ventured between March-April 2012, in Kosovo in order to meet and exchange know-how with ex-UCK Kosovo-Albanian guerillas. The assassination of 5 citizens in FYROM by radical Islamists recently, the attack on the US Embassy in Serajevo in late 2011 and the numerous reporting by reliable sources on a wider activity of Islamic nature terrorist circles in Southeastern Europe, poses great questions for the existence of a plan for further attacks, such as the one against the Israeli tourists in Burgas. The upheaval in Syria seems to have re-activated the “paths” of the 90′s between the Salafists in the Middle East and their offsprings in various locations in the Balkans, via Turkey. Lastly the disorganization of the intelligence & security apparatus of various Arab states due to the “Arab Spring” has resulted in the collapse of the surveillance systems to monitor thousands of potential terrorists which are now feelings more capable of evading monitoring, thus increasing the chances of further terrorist attacks internationally.
Although it is still early to pin point the culprits of the Burgas suicide bombings, there are three main suspects that include:
– Hezbollah, either directly or through an autonomous cell
– Al Qaeda through the myriads of loosely connected cells, that are still active in Southeastern Europe or through a “White Al Qaeda group
– Lastly, a “hybrid group” composed by Caucasian Islamists and/or local Bulgarian Salafis and/or Turkish radical groups.