ATHENS – A crude bomb in a metal box that went off outside a church in a wealthy neighborhood in Greece’s capital showed terror and anarchist groups are becoming more indiscriminate in their targets as the country continues to breed them.
In a feature look at the proliferation of the groups who are stepping up violence – with the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA condoning it, said critics – The New Republic wrote that while there’s little to fear from jihadists or religious extremists that, said Europol, “Greece is the only EU member state that faces an actual threat from left-wing terrorism.”
But the piece said a much more immediate and tangible threat comes from right-wing violence as racist hate crimes tripled in 2017 and the ultra-extreme right Golden Dawn, accused of using neo-Nazi tactics, has all 15 of its lawmakers and dozens of members in the fourth year on charges of running a criminal gang, which they have denied.
Tied to romantic notions of rebels in a country where that spirit drove out invaders across the ages, from Venetians to Franks, Turks to the Nazis, and in recent years with fury against banks and international lenders who imposed harsh austerity measures in return for bailouts, leftist terrorists and anarchists have gone from splashing paint on government buildings and throwing flyers around to setting off bombs.
The targets have also included foreign embassies, courts where the government – after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras swore, “not one home in the hands of banks” – allowed the foreclosure of homes, and even to SYRIZA offices.
It’s part of a spate of growing lawlessness and violence that the major opposition New Democracy Conservatives blame says Tsipras is implicitly encouraging in a desperate bid to re-establish Leftist credentials with the same groups tossing Molotov Cocktails and planting bombs, such as a bigger package in December, before the church bombing, which destroyed part of the front of the building housing the offices of SKAI TV and Kathimerini newspaper.
The Europol figures showed that in 2017, of the 24 left-wing attacks that occurred across the EU, eight happened in Greece; of the 36 suspects arrested in connection to left-wing terrorism, 12 were charged in Greece.
“This is a new kind of attack,” Mary Bossis, an Associate Professor of International Relations at University of Piraeus and an expert on left-wing militancy, told the magazine’s writer Sarah Souli, referring to the church bomb. “We never had attacks against churches before.”
A new anarchist group said it was behind putting a crude bomb outside the church in the Kolonaki neighborhood – which abuts the anarchist stronghold of Exarchia – that went off and wounded a police officer and church worker slightly.
The group, which calls itself the Iconoclastic Sect, made the claim on a Spanish web page, and said the attack outside the Saint Dionysios church in the heavily policed, upscale area, was just the start, media reports said.
“Our hands will not tremble when the time comes to spill blood, we won’t show mercy or sensitivity towards our enemies,” the group said on the website.
The Popular Fighters Group said it planted the bomb outside SKAI that caused extensive damage but no injuries as it went off around 3:30 a.m. when it was more likely there wouldn’t be potential victims around.
The group said it went after the media outlets to protest what it called their support for austerity policies that punished workers, pensioners and the poor the last 8 ½ years, including under SYRIZA, which vowed to help those groups before Tsipras reneged on anti-austerity measures and bowed to the country’s creditors.
The magazine wrote that the terror group, also known as The Group of People’s Fighters (OLA) claimed the bomb was meant to “social-counter violence to the media’s effort to reproduce a xenophobic, far-right and neo-liberal narrative.”
” Brady Kiesling, former U.S. diplomat and author of Greek Urban Warriors told Souli that the act was “violence as performance art,” meant to show off and gain attention for the cause.
In 2017, the Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire (SPF,) many of whose members have been jailed, said it sent a series of letter bombs sent to International Monetary Fund offices in Paris and to German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble in Berlin, one of the creditors and a country which put up the bulk of 326 billion euros ($370.6 billion) in three bailouts.
“The general public isn’t afraid of (these groups,”,) said Bossis. “You won’t see the Greeks being altogether against them, they don’t care.”
Kiesling said major Greek terrorist groups arose from armed resistance to the military dictatorship of 1967-74, under ruling Colonels backed by the United States – which now has said little as one of the leaders of the biggest of those, November 17 mastermind Dimitris Koufodinas received five furloughs despite the murders of five Americans.
“They had a hyper obsessed, diseased sense of morality,” Kiesling said, “and therefore acted in places where (they thought) society had failed.”
Following World War II, more than 100,000 people were killed during a civil war between the anti-communist government army backed by the U.S. and Britain, and the Communists. “The right won the war,” said Ioannis Michaletos, a security analyst, “but the left won culturally … they have a martyr notion because they lost the war.”
It doesn’t much matter what the government is, he said, because none seem able or willing to stop the terrorists now.
“What is lacking is political will,” he said. “The right accuses the left of inaction; the left accuses the right of political exploitation.” And so it goes.