Bulgaria launches terrorism probe after wave of hoax bomb alerts

(Reuters) - Bulgarian prosecutors are launching a terrorism investigation after dozens of schools across the country received hoax bomb threats, local news agency BTA reported on Tuesday.

Hoax bomb threats contained in near-identical emails have been received at schools in Pleven, Sliven, Varna, Burgas and Sofia.

Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Petar Todorov put the total number received since Monday at 102, according to BTA. Todorov said there was no real danger to the public.

The prosecution said it had launched pre-trial proceedings for terrorism against Bulgaria, a crime which can carry a sentence of anything from 15 years imprisonment to life without parole.

Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev was cited by BTA as saying that the most likely explanation for the wave of hoax bomb alerts was that it was part of a hybrid attack linked to Russia.

He said that the email addresses and phones that the threats were sent from were registered in the United States and Britain.

(Reporting by Alan Charlish; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)