NewsHamas weapons cache unearthed in Bulgaria amid European plot fears

Hamas weapons cache unearthed in Bulgaria amid European plot fears

Hamas weapons in Bulgaria. The trail also led to Poland.
Hamas weapons in Bulgaria. The trail also led to Poland.
Images source: © Getty Images | Georgi Paleykov

8:47 AM EDT, April 5, 2024

Three and a half months after the arrest of four individuals with suspected ties to the radical Islamic organization Hamas in Bulgaria, authorities discovered a hidden weapons cache. These individuals were reportedly planning attacks in Europe.

In December of 2023, the men were detained in Germany and the Netherlands, accused of plotting terrorist activities. German prosecutors revealed they were on the hunt for a covert weapons depot in Europe, previously established by Hamas. One of the suspects arrested in Berlin had received instructions from Hamas leaders on how to find the weapons. Notably, three of the detainees had made several trips from Berlin to Poland and elsewhere, leading German investigators to suspect that the weapons cache might be in Poland.

"Der Spiegel" reported that the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) unearthed the cache based on photographs found on one of the suspect's mobile phones. Bulgarian police recovered and secured the weapons, stashed in a plastic bag beneath a tree in southern Bulgaria. It remains uncertain if this cache was the only one or one among several.

Did human smugglers assist the terrorists?

Tihomir Bezlov, a crime and security expert at the Center for the Study of Democracy in Sofia, speculates that human smugglers might have aided in transporting the weapons. A traditional route from Turkey passes through Bulgaria. Bezlov notes the presence of new arrivals from Palestine among illegal migrants, constituting the fifth or sixth largest group. He suggests that some human trafficking networks could have been involved in the logistics of orchestrating terrorist attacks.
Bezlov further explains that there is a sizable Palestinian community in Bulgaria, rooted in migration patterns from 1990. This community also supports individuals traveling illegally through Bulgaria en route to Western Europe, particularly Germany.

Were there plans to attack Jewish institutions in Europe?

Investigators believe the intent was to transport the weapons to Berlin, keeping them at the ready for potential assaults on Jewish establishments in Germany and across Europe. However, the plans for such attacks had not been solidified.

German prosecutors assert that the four detainees have been long-standing members of Hamas, engaging in the organization's operations abroad and maintaining tight connections with its military wing's leaders. Bezlov points out that this incident marks the first instance of Hamas's involvement in Bulgaria, aiming at a target in Germany. The successful discovery of the cache in Bulgaria is attributed to the effective collaboration between Bulgarian and German security services.

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