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Bus bombing: Why in Bulgaria, and why look to Iran?

Israel's prime minister accuses Iran of attacking a busload of tourists in Bulgaria, a popular destination for Israelis.

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Smoke rises into the sky after an explosion at Burgas airport, outside the Black Sea city of Burgas, Bulgaria, some 400 kilometers east of the capital, Sofia, on July 18.

Burgasinfo/AP

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At least seven Israeli tourists were killed and dozens were reported injured in a terrorist bomb attack in Bulgaria today, with Israel immediately placing the blame on Iran.

The blast targeted buses at the the airport in Burgas, a city on the Black Sea coast and a major entry point for tourists heading to nearby resorts. It remains unclear if the explosion was from a suicide bomber or a bomb placed at the front of one of the buses.

Tourism is a major economic earner for Bulgaria, a country of around 7 million people that drew 8.7 million foreign visitors last year – almost 140,000 of them from Israel. Bulgaria has established a reputation among Israelis as a cheap place to get married and to gamble, according to Bulgarian journalist Petar Karaboev.

Security for Israeli tourists in Bulgaria had been tightened after a reported attempt to bomb a bus carrying Israelis to a ski resort near Sofia was foiled in January. That incident was thought to be linked to the fourth anniversary of the assassination of commander Imad Mughniyeh from the Iranian-allied Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Bulgaria's popularity with Israelis yet relative lack of experience with political violence may explain how the country became a terrorist target. 

β€œIt could have happened anywhere in the world [but] Bulgaria is particularly vulnerable as the police have no anti-terrorism experience,” says Anthony Georgieff, a Bulgarian journalist and the author of a book on Jewish Bulgaria.

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