Bulgaria bus bombing suspect is Canadian dual national: Baird
Published Tuesday, February 5, 2013 10:02AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 5, 2013 10:28PM EST
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird confirmed Tuesday that a man who held both Canadian and Lebanese citizenships was involved in a deadly bus bombing in Bulgaria last July.
Baird said the suspect is a dual national who resides in Lebanon and is now believed to be at large.
He couldn’t say how the man obtained a Canadian passport or provide details about his activities in Canada.
“I couldn’t even tell you the last time this person was in Canada,” Baird told reporters. “I’m not in a position where I could identify today. Obviously we’re prepared to work with Bulgarian authorities.”
The Bulgarian government has blamed the bus bombing, which killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver as they made their way to a Black Sea resort, on Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group and political party Ottawa has declared a terrorist organization.
Hezbollah has denied any involvement.
Bulgaria's interior minister said that one of the bombing suspects entered the country with a Canadian passport, while the other had an Australian passport. Both had alleged ties to Hezbollah.
The man suspected of detonating the bomb died in the blast.
“If indeed it's subsequently proven that this terrorist organization was responsible for this attack, then it will be the first time that Hezbollah has carried out a successful terrorist attack in Europe since the mid-1980s,” director of Europol Rob Wainwright said.
Baird said the attack reinforces the need to put international pressure on Hezbollah.
Canada and the U.S. have both listed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, while the EU has not.
Pressure is mounting, however, for the EU to change its stance.
“The evidence is becoming so overwhelming that it will be ever more difficult for Europeans to maintain this charade that Hezbollah is anything but a terrorist organization,” international relations prof. Aurel Braun said.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Baird renewed his call for Europe to follow Canada’s lead.
“We’ve been encouraging the European Union to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, something that Canada did some time ago,” Baird said.
Baird said he personally became aware of the Canadian connection “about a week or two ago.”
“We have been working with the authorities in Bulgaria for a period of time. We appreciate their constructive engagement with Canada on this,” he said.
Just two weeks ago, authorities in Algeria claimed that a Canadian man was among a group of militants who stormed a natural gas plant in the Sahara desert, taking hundreds of people hostage and killing a number of foreign nationals.
But Ottawa has yet to see proof of the terror suspects’ Canadian identity from the Algerian government.
The Bulgaria bombing case has “demonstrably more facts” than the situation in Algeria, Baird said Tuesday.
“We’ve had a more robust engagement with Bulgaria and they provided more information,” he said. “The situation in Algeria is completely different. We don’t even have a name, which is obviously of concern.”
With a report from CTV News Correspondent Omar Sachedina