Feds probe Canadian ties to Bulgarian bus bombing

Luggage from a bus that was damaged in a bomb blast on Wednesday is seen outside Burgas Airport,...

Luggage from a bus that was damaged in a bomb blast on Wednesday is seen outside Burgas Airport, about 400 km east of Sofia July 19, 2012. REUTERS/Interior Ministry/Handout

Daniel Proussalidis Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 5:50 PM ET

OTTAWA -- Canada confirmed Tuesday that a dual Canadian-Lebanese citizen is a suspect in the 2012 bombing of a tourist bus in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian.

"I can confirm the individual in question is a dual national who resides in Lebanon," said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

Baird added that he couldn't identify the suspect.

"I couldn't even tell you the last time this person was in Canada," he said.

Bulgaria's interior minister says two foreign suspects were involved in a deadly bombing in the Bulgarian resort town of Burgas last July.

Tsvetan Tsvetanov says one suspect had a Canadian passport while the other had an Australian one, and both had been living in Lebanon.

Tsvetanov also blamed the Islamist terrorist group Hezbollah for the Burgas bombing, saying that there is data "showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects."

Baird seized on Tsvetanov's comments, to urge the European Union to list Hezbollah as a terrorist entity.

"Hezbollah's involvement in this attack is certainly a strong indicator that they should take the steps that Canada has taken," said Baird.

If a dual citizen helped Hezbollah conduct the Burgas bombing, it wouldn't be the first time that there has been such cooperation.

In 2006, dual Canadian-Lebanese citizen Naji Antoine Abi Khalil was sentenced to five years in an American prison for trying to export night vision goggles and targeting equipment from the U.S. to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

National security expert Christian Leuprecht says Canadian connections to Hezbollah could run even deeper.

"There's been long-standing suspicion that there are at least elements of the Lebanese community in Canada that have helped to bankroll parts of Hezbollah," said the professor at Royal Military College and Queen's University.

While officials work to determine whether a Canadian citizen participated in the Burgas terror attack, they're also trying to confirm Algerian claims that a Canadian mastermind was behind a hostage-taking there.

Baird says he believes the information from Bulgaria has "demonstrably more facts" than the Algerian claims.

"We've had a more robust engagement with Bulgaria and they provided more information," said Baird. "The situation in Algeria is completely different."

He says there's still no confirmation of any Canadian involvement in the Algerian hostage-taking.

"We have authorities on the ground working with officials in Algiers to get to the bottom of it," he said.

Canadian authorities have been in Algeria working on the case at least since Jan. 24.

-- with files from Reuters


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