Athens Bombing Spate Fuels New Greek Terrorism Worries

FILE - Greek forensic experts search at the scene after an explosion outside the Orthodox church of Agios Dionysios in the upscale Kolonaki area of Athens, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018. Police in Greece say an officer has been injured in a small explosion outside a church in central Athens while responding to a call to investigate a suspicious package. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS- A bomb which exploded outside a church in Greece’s capital, in a wealthy neighborhood, has sparked worries about a surge in terrorism, coming after a bomb exploded outside a major TV station and another sent to a judge was defused.

While Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras condemned the church bomb his party, riddled with anarchist and terrorist influences, has also been sympathetic to lenient treatment and furloughs given a former mastermind of the Nov. 17 terror group that killed 23 people, including five Americans, and used bombs in its attacks.

Police have said they suspect far-left extremists were behind the blasts, and said they are on guard to prevent further attacks although no group has taken responsibility so far, the Wall Street Journal noted in a report indicating anxiety about a new wave of assaults.

With competing gangs vandalizing a series of targets in Greece’s capital, including setting off an explosion outside a major TV station’s headquarters, police now think a bomb which went off outside a church was put together by “apprentice” terrorists.

The device, which included inflammable liquid, went off at 7 a.m. on Dec. 27, injuring a police office and church caretaker, shortly before a Christmas mass was to have been celebrated inside and a crowd would have gathered.

Unlike the bomb set off outside SKAI TV and the building which also houses Kathimerini, a daily newspaper, police said they believe the church bomb wasn’t the work of one of the country’s many active terrorist or anarchist groups, the paper said.

More likely, officials were said to believe, it was put together by young anarchists who want to step up their attacks from using Molotov Cocktails to more sophisticated explosive devices although no claim of responsibility was made and no motive yet reported.

“The church caretaker spotted a box outside the entrance of the church, moved it and called the police,” a police official said. “It exploded a few minutes later when the police arrived; the blast was not powerful.” There was no warning call to authorities, unlike in the case of many past bombings.

In 2017, former Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos was wounded and hospitalized for several weeks after he opened a letter bomb while riding in his car. In March 2017 Greek politicians and some foreign officials, including Germany’s finance minister at the time, Wolfgang Schäuble, were also targeted.

An anarchist group, Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire, many of whose leaders are in jail, claimed responsibility for the failed attack on Schaeuble, whose country is the biggest lender in 326 billion euros ($374.56 billion) in three Greek bailouts and which demanded harsh austerity in return, angering anarchist and terror groups.

HISTORY OF VIOLENCE

Terrorism plagued Greece for decades after the restoration of parliamentary democracy in 1974, when a military dictatorship fell and Nov. 17 was behind much of it before being disbanded ahead of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Greece’s more than 8 ½-year long economic and austerity crisis has refueled terror groups with many now operating and attacking with near-impunity as police have been unable to stop them.

The major opposition New Democracy said leftist anarchists and terrorists are targeting the country’s establishment, although offices of SYRIZA have been hit with vandalism as well as banks, foreign embassies, doctor’s offices, courts and government buildings.

“We are very concerned about the way the government handles the issues of law and order,” said New Democracy lawmaker Vassilis Kikilias, whose party said violence is on the uptick because it has been condoned and implicitly encouraged by Tsipras in a bid to re-establish Leftist credentials after surrendering to international creditors and bankers to get a third bailout in the summer of 2015, this one for 86 billion euros ($98.81 billion).

Since coming to power and reneging on anti-austerity promises, Tsipras has cozied up to the party’s alleged ideological enemies as well as the United States, after promising to end any American military presence in the country and take Greece out of NATO.

Instead, he is moving to expand the US military operations in Greece and has helped NATO, including sending Greek troops to Afghanistan after swearing none would be involved in foreign operations, and making a deal to rename the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and open the door for its entry into the defense alliance.

That agreement was brokered with the help of United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz, an American lawyer who had failed for two decades to find a solution and suspended talks between the countries for three years before reopening them in 2018 amid speculation it was done to get FYROM into NATO as a bulwark against Russian interests in the Balkans.

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