By Anthony M. Destefano
The NYPD has learned from foreign intelligence sources that a man traveling as an American appears to have also been involved in the deadly suicide bombing that killed five Israelis and their bus driver in Bulgaria last week.
The development has sparked new terror concerns in the city because the group claiming responsibility for the bombing threatened to attack Israelis and Americans worldwide until they leave the Holy Land, said a high-ranking law enforcement official.
Information about the possible accomplice was provided to an NYPD intelligence detective who traveled to Bulgaria last week after the bombing, said the official who asked not to be identified.
The detective, who returned to New York over the weekend, also learned that a group known as "Base of Jihad" had claimed responsibility for the attack, said the official. The claim of responsibility was reported by Israeli news media over the weekend.
The man who appears to have been the bombing accomplice is believed to have detonated the explosion that killed the suicide attacker after he had boarded a tourist bus in the city of Burgas, authorities said.
"My understanding is that is being examined and looked at very carefully," Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said in a statement about the possible American accomplice.
Immediately following the attack that killed five Israelis and a bus driver in Bulgaria, NYPD officials here ramped up security around synagogues and Jewish neighborhoods because of potential tension between Israel and Iran. Israeli officials blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the attack. Iran has denied responsibility, according to news reports.
"We have been concerned about Iran for some time," police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Friday. "Since 2003 . . . we have seen agents, employees of Iran taking pictures here of central locations" in New York City.
An NYPD intelligence analysis prepared after the Bulgaria bombing stated that Iran, using operatives linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp., has "sharply increased its operational tempo" and its willingness to target Israelis and Jews.
The analysis said that since January there have been nine incidents worldwide in which Israeli or Jewish interests have been targeted.
On Jan. 1, a suspicious package was found on another charter bus of Israelis headed from Turkey into Bulgaria, while about two weeks later three men were arrested in Baku, Azerbaijan, for allegedly plotting to attack a rabbi and teacher at an Israeli school, the report stated. Azeri officials alleged that the men received weapons and equipment from Iranian intelligence agents, with help from the Baku underworld, according to the report.