Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas on Thursday brushed off criticism in the wake of an attack on riot police in downtown Athens that left one officer injured.
Speaking on Skai television, Toskas said the assault rifle attack on a squad of riot police stationed outside the PASOK party’s headquarters in the downtown district of Exarchia was a reaction to the recent arrest of Pola Roupa, a leading member of the Revolutionary Struggle urban guerrilla group.
“There is no such thing as neo-terrorism,” Toskas said in response to criticism that authorities are not doing enough to crack down on violent anti-establishment groups credited with several attacks against targets like foreign embassies, state services and public officials. “These are simply vestiges of older terror groups, which are gradually being exterminated.”
His comments came a day after ballistic tests confirmed that the Kalashnikov assault rifle used in Tuesday’s hit outside PASOK’s headquarters was the same as that fired at the same offices in May 2014 and at the Mexican Embassy in Athens in July, both of which were claimed by a group calling itself Revolutionary Self-Defense.
Toskas also responded to comments from the opposition about the situation in Exarchia – a neighborhood associated with anarchist groups where assaults against police are a frequent occurrence –after New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that if he were elected, he would initiate a swift crackdown in the area.
“Why didn’t New Democracy anything about it all the years it was in power if it’s that simple?” Toskas asked. “Problems cannot be solved that quickly unless we want to cause even greater damage.”
The minister also pointed to the recent successes of the Greek Police, including the arrest of Roupa and the dismantling of a large drug-trafficking ring based in Athens. He added that crime rates have down since the ministry increased police patrols in problem areas.
“If you’re looking for magical solutions, I’m sorry, there aren’t any,” Toskas said in response to comments from critics that the ministry has been dragging its heels in dealing with crime.