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“It felt like an earthquake and then I saw flying pieces of meat,” said Georgi Stoev, an airport official. “It was horrible, just like in a horror movie.”
At Varna airport, also on the Black Sea, police with dogs were checking for explosives and tourists were asked to carry their luggage to their planes, national radio reported.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the Tehran-backed Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah carried out the bombing. “The immediate executors are Hezbollah people, who of course have constant Iranian sponsorship,” Barak told Israel Radio.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Israel will react powerfully against Iranian terror.” There was no immediate Iranian reaction to the Israeli accusation.
The blast occurred on the 18th anniversary of a bomb attack on Argentina’s main Jewish organisation that killed 85 people. Argentina blamed Iran, which denied responsibility.
Medical officials said two badly injured Israeli tourists were taken to hospitals in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia. One woman was in intensive care with head and chest injuries and a man was in a critical state with burns covering 55 percent of his body.
About 70 Israeli tourists, including those lightly injured by the blast, left Burgas on a Bulgarian government airplane to Israel, the interior ministry said.
The European Commission and NATO condemned the attack, joining criticism from the United States, Britain, France and Germany.
Israeli officials had previously said that Bulgaria, a popular destination for Israeli tourists, was vulnerable to attack by Islamist militants, who could infiltrate via Turkey.
Israeli diplomats have been targeted in several countries in recent months by bombers who Israel said struck on behalf of Iran.
Although Tehran has denied involvement, some analysts believe it is trying to avenge the assassinations of several scientists from its nuclear programme that the Iranians have blamed on Israel and its Western allies.
Israel and Western powers fear Iran is working towards a nuclear bomb but it says its uranium enrichment work is strictly for peaceful ends. Both Israel and the United States have not ruled out military action against Iranian nuclear facilities.