Coroner Galina Mileva, who assisted in the post-mortem examination
Coroner Galina Mileva, who assisted in the post-mortem examination of the remains of the presumed attacker who blew up a bus of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria killing six people, speaks during an interview with AFP in the city of Burgas. It is a wonder that last week's suicide bombing in Bulgaria only killed six people, the coroner told AFP on Monday. © Nikolay Doychinov - AFP
Coroner Galina Mileva, who assisted in the post-mortem examination
Diana Simeonova, AFP
Last updated: July 24, 2012

Coroner: Miraculous Bulgaria attack toll not higher

It is a wonder that last week's suicide bombing in Bulgaria only killed six people, the coroner with the gruesome task of examining what little remains of the bomber told AFP on Monday.

Last Wednesday's explosion on a bus carrying Israeli tourists at Burgas airport on the Black Sea was a "very powerful blast and it is almost miraculous that the victims were not many more," Galina Mileva said.

"Could you imagine if this happened in the arrivals hall? There would have been many more people killed," she said. It was also fortunate that the bus was not fuller, she added.

Five Israeli tourists who had just arrived from Tel Aviv for a holiday in Bulgaria's popular Black Sea resorts and the Bulgarian driver of the bus died in the blast.

Mileva also said that the way the young bomber's body was blown apart -- only his head and severed limbs were recovered -- indicated that the bomb was attached to his torso, either to his chest or his back.

"Almost nothing was left from the torso, only pieces," she said. "I assume that the explosive was attached to him. It could have been detonated from afar or by him."

The coroner also said that the attacker was "between 25 and 30-something. A young person."

This estimate differs from that of the Bulgarian government, which very soon after the attack put his age at around 36, based on closed circuit television images from Burgas airport where the explosion happened.

In the CCTV footage, the attacker's hair also looked to be longer, reaching down to his shoulders, and lighter in colour, than that of the dead bomber. The discrepancy could be because he was wearing a wig, Mileva said.

She also said that the bomber, whose height she was only able to estimate at 1.8 metres (five foot nine inches), "was not very white. His skin was fair, in the sense of not dark. He could be of Arab origin."

A US driving licence that is thought to be fake from the state of Michigan was also found at the scene with the name of Jacque Felipe Martin with an address in Baton Rouge, which is another state, Louisiana.

Further confusion has been sown by comments from a car rental firm near Burgas whose owners said a man with a suspicious driving licence tried to hire a car from them the day before the attack.

This has given rise to speculation that the bomber may have had an accomplice. Media reports on Monday also said police were trying to trace a woman who shared a hotel room with the bomber in the nearby city of Varna.

"I can tell you that witnesses are very rarely able to provide exact details. People like to exaggerate, even sometimes add things. These are only witness reports," said Mileva.

Israel has blamed the deadliest attack on its citizens abroad since 2004 on Iran and its "terrorist proxy" Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia. Tehran has denied any involvement.

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