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Athens Church Bomb Seen as Work of New Terror Group

Αssociated press

A Greek Orthodox priest arrives after an explosion at the Orthodox church of Agios Dionysios in the upscale Kolonaki area of Athens, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018 (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis, FILE

ATHENS - 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.

It was the third bombing this month, as police had defused another placed outside thehome of prosecutor Isidoros Doyiakos with the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition coming under fire for what political rivals said was creating a culture of condoned lawlessness.

The church bomb was a shoebox that contained wires, a clock and two small plastic water bottles with a yellow liquid, probably petrol, inside them, media reports said.

The major opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis jumped on the incident to condemn the government and in calling for zero tolerance for violence which has been growing with numerous attacks on political offices, embassies and other targets.

“A bomb outside a church in a densely populated commercial street in Athens is a cold attack against citizens,” Mitsotakis tweeted.  “Unfortunately, the more the government fails to acknowledge the need for zero tolerance toward violence, the more unprecedented the feelings of insecurity grow,” Mitsotakis added.

The leader of the centrist Movement for Change (KINAL), Fofi Genimata, said the blast showed there’s a lack of security. “The government must assume its responsibilities,” she tweeted but there was no response from SYRIZA nor its allegedly law-and-order

The two victims were hospitalized. Neither of the men has injuries that are life-threatening, according to police and church officials. The blast caused minimal damage.

Father Symeon Voliotis, an aide at the archbishop's office, said the caretaker found the explosive device at the front entrance of the church, moved it to a nearby parking space, and alerted police.

"Any action that threatens life or disturbs the peace must be condemned," he told state-run ERT television. "My first thought was that someone homeless may have been hurt, because they often seek shelter there. But fortunately that was not the case."

The church is dedicated to Saint Dionysius the Areopagite, the 1st Century Athens judge who converted to Christianity and became the city's patron saint.

"What made an impression on us was that the (bomb) was just left there, without warning," said Father Giorgios, who holds services at the church. "The service was due to start as 7:30 but quite often, people go earlier to light a candle."

"This church has three priests and we are all wondering why someone would attack the patron saint of Athens ... We don't really understand why someone would attack us, to attack love.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)