SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria’s government said Tuesday that two of the people behind a deadly bombing attack that targeted an Israeli tour bus six months ago were believed to be members of the military wing of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
The announcement could force the European Union to reconsider whether to designate the group as a terrorist organization and crack down on its extensive fund-raising operations across the continent. That could have wide-reaching repercussions for Europe’s uneasy detente with the group, which is an influential force in Middle East politics, considers Israel an enemy, and has extensive links with Iran.
Bulgaria’s interior minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, said that the investigation into the bombing in Burgas in July 2012 found that a man with an Australian passport and a man with a Canadian passport were two of the three conspirators involved in the attack, which claimed the lives of five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver.
Investigators had “a well-founded assumption that they belonged to the military formation of Hezbollah,’’ Tsvetanov said.
Bulgarian officials have found themselves under pressure from Israel and the United States, which consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization, to blame it for the bus attack. But the Bulgarians also have been facing pressure from such European allies as Germany and France, which regard Hezbollah as a legitimate political organization, to temper any finding on the sensitive issue.
The United States welcomed the finding.
“We call on our European partners as well as other members of the international community to take proactive action to uncover Hezbollah’s infrastructure and disrupt the group’s financing schemes and operational networks in order to prevent future attacks,” John O. Brennan, President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser and his nominee to run the CIA, said in a statement Tuesday.
But Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s high representative for foreign policy, responded with caution.
“The implications of the investigation need to be assessed seriously as they relate to a terrorist attack on EU soil, which resulted in the killing and injury of innocent civilians,” she said in a statement.
The new secretary of state, John F. Kerry, released a statement urging “governments around the world — and particularly our partners in Europe — to take immediate action to crack down” on Hezbollah, and made a phone call to Ashton. Asked whether he had pressed for Hezbollah to be blacklisted, the State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said that Ashton “knows where we want to go.”
An EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the question of listing Hezbollah as a terrorist group would have to be a unanimous decision by all 27 member states.
Tsvetanov spoke to reporters after briefing top government officials and security personnel about the state of the investigation.
“We have followed their entire activities in Australia and Canada so we have information about financing and their membership in Hezbollah,” he said.