ATHENS – A bomb set off outside the offices of a private TV station the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA won’t allow its members to be interviewed on was an attack on democracy and the rule of law, leaders of political parties across the board said Dec. 17.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who had criticized SKAI TV for being anti-SYRIZA and who has been accused by critics of condoning growing violence and lawlessness, said the bombing which caused extensive damage but no injuries was “an attack by cowardly and dark forces against democracy itself.”
In a statement release by his office – he does not hold news conferences and shuns reporters and events not sponsored by his party – he said that the attackers, “will not achieve their goal though, neither to terrorize nor to disorientate,” adding his “genuine solidarity” with journalists and TV station employees.
In comments from the scene of the blast earlier in the day – the explosion happened at 2:35 a.m. after a warning call – Citizens’ Protection Minister Olga Gerovasili said the explosion was an “attack on democracy.”
She added that, “However it serves to bolster democracy even more, not to threaten it,”after she went there with Greek Police Chief Aristeidis Andrikopoulos. Other political leaders quickly jumped in to condemn the bombing.
“Thankfully, there was only material damage — it’s a relief that no one was hurt — following the swift action taken by the police,” she said. “We will reinforce our democracy. This incident should give pause to those who leave a path open to terrorism and fascism.”
She said the anti-terrorism police were leading the investigation. Dozens of police investigators wearing white coveralls collected evidence from the scene, much of which remained cordoned off.
The blast shattered windows and damaged the front of the building, and tore through front offices. Nearby apartment buildings and cars were also damaged.
The explosive device was attached to a metal crash barrier on a busy coastal road in the Faliro area south of Athens.
Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis, whose son was among those embracing a furloughed terrorist killer and former mastermind of the group Nov. 17 that used bombs to murder people, expressed his “unequivocal” condemnation of the attack while SYRIZA said it was a “deeply undemocratic act”it denounced.
Major opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who also went to the scene of the blast, said the coalition government – which includes the tiny, pro-austerity, ultra-nationalist, allegedly law-and-order Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos – was to blame for creating a “toxic climate,” and called on police to find the perpetrators, who were still unknown.
A video showed the blast going off some 40 minutes after staff left the building when an anonymous caller warned there was a bomb set to explode outside the building that also houses the offices of the newspaper Kathimerini.
The explosive device had been placed in a backpack and left on the sidewalk outside the premises of Skai which also house the Kathimerini newspaper. There was no explanation if police were called to the scene before the explosion and, if so, why no one noticed a backpack with a bomb inside.
The force of the explosion blew out windows as high as the fifth floor of the building, showing how powerful it was. “They wanted to hurt democracy and possibly take human lives,” Deputy Citizens’ Protection Minister Katerina Papakosta said.
The President of the Athens Union of Journalists, ESIEA, Maria Antoniadou, who described the hit as “an attack on information, on democracy,” joining the condemnation for the blast for which no group immediately had taken responsibility.
The assault follows a long string of attacks on government and business targets and foreign embassies by the notorious anarchist group Rouvikonas without condemnation from SYRIZA, which is riddled with anarchist and terrorist sympathizers.
SKAI continued its live TV broadcast, reporting from outside the building, while radio broadcasts from inside the building were also operating.
Journalist Nikos Filippidis arrived for work after the building was partially reopened.
“There are people who work here for the press, to inform the public,” he said. “The damage will be fixed, but this feels like violence inside someone’s home.”
The attack bore some similarities with a Dec. 22, 2017, bombing of a courthouse building in central Athens. That attack was claimed by a far-left group called Popular Fighters Group.
Greece has a history of armed attacks over the last four decades, mostly from radical far-left groups that began to emerge after a seven-year dictatorship that collapsed in 1974.
Targets frequently include banks and embassies, as well as police and judicial sites.
To Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis, a former TV journalist, said “Terrorism cannot be defeated with words. Perpetrators need to be found and punished. This is an opportunity to put an end to the exclusion of media outlets by political parties and politicians. Faced with terrorism, let us all be united,” in his tweet.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)