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Blast in Bulgaria kills Israeli tourists

SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Israel vowed to "react forcefully to Iran's terror" for a daylight bombing Wednesday that killed at least seven people on a bus full of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria.

The bombing was the latest in a series of attacks Israelis attribute to Iran that have targeted Israelis and Jews overseas and threatened to escalate a shadow war between the two archenemies. Iran has denied involvement in the past but did not comment on Wednesday's attack.

President Barack Obama termed it a "barbaric terrorist attack" and called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pledge U.S. help in finding the perpetrators.

The blast gutted the bus at the airport in the quiet Black Sea resort city of Burgas, some 250 miles east of the capital, Sofia, where the Israelis had just arrived on a charter flight from Tel Aviv carrying 154 people, including eight children.

Black smoke billowed into the sky from the stricken bus after the bomb exploded. Young Israelis said they were just boarding when the blast ripped through the white vehicle in the airport parking lot. The attack took place shortly after the flight landed at 4:45 p.m. local time.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said at least seven people were killed. Lieberman said he was briefed by his Bulgarian counterpart and informed that a bomb had been planted in the bus as it was transferring tourists from the airport. He said six people died at the scene and another at the hospital. Two others were in critical condition.

"We were at the entrance of the bus and in a few seconds we heard a huge boom," said Gal Malka, an Israeli teenager who was slightly wounded.

The resort town has become a popular travel destination in recent years for Israelis, particularly for recent high school graduates before they are drafted for mandatory military service.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which wounded 30 others. But suspicion immediately fell upon Iran and its Lebanese proxy, the Hezbollah guerrilla group. "All signs point to Iran," Netanyahu said. "Israel will react forcefully to Iran's terror." He gave no evidence to back his charges.

Late Wednesday, Israel announced it was dispatching a military medical and relief team to Bulgaria, a country of 7.3 million bordering Greece and Turkey.

The Burgas airport was closed. In Sofia, the mayor ordered a stronger police presence at all public places linked to the Jewish community. There are some 5,000 Jews in Bulgaria and most live in the capital.

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