NEWS

Predawn attack on Athens court gives authorities the jitters

YIANNIS SOULIOTIS

TAGS: Terrorism, Politics

A powerful predawn explosion damaged a court complex in central Athens on Friday, with the Association of Greek Judges and Prosecutors calling it an “assault against democracy.”

No one was injured in the blast, which occurred following warning telephone calls to the offices of a daily newspaper and news website and partly destroyed the main entrance to the Appeals Court on Loukareos Street.

Police said three suspects were involved and that they fired a warning shot at a guard as they made their getaway in a minivan, which was later found abandoned in central Athens.

Analysts say the intensity of the blast and the determination displayed by the three perpetrators are an indication that urban terror is making a comeback and that alarm bells should start ringing at the Civil Protection Ministry.

Friday’s incident followed a Kalashnikov attack against a riot police unit in central Athens last month and did much to put a damper on the relative state of euphoria at the ministry after the arrest in January of Pola Roupa over her participation in the Revolutionary Struggle terrorist group and, in October, of Constantinos Yiatzoglou, who sent the parcel bomb which exploded in the hands of former Prime Minister Lucas Papademos in May.

According to the sequence of events described by police, Friday’s incident began to unfold after a small Fiat van with three men inside parked outside the building at 2.50 a.m. Two of the suspects then slid open the van door and ran up to the entrance of the court and placed a rucksack containing the bomb on the steps. At that point they were spotted by a guard who moved toward them. However, he was stopped in his tracks by the third suspect, the driver, who fired a warning shot, probably with a Kalashnikov.

The three then sped off in the minivan which had been recently reported stolen in southern Athens.

The vehicle was later found abandoned behind the Archaeological Museum on the corner of Kountouriotou and Ikonomou streets. The warning calls were made 40 minutes before the blast to Efimerida Ton Syntakton (Efsyn) newspaper and the Zougla website. Police sealed off the area before the explosion took place at 3.25 a.m.

Investigators and forensic experts on the scene said the attack bore the hallmarks of previous urban terrorist attacks in Athens in the last two years, including one at the offices of the Greek Industrialist Union (SEV) at Syntagma Square in November 2015 and one in April this year at the offices of Eurobank on Santaroza Street.

The association of judges and prosecutors took a swipe on Friday at those who “cultivated a warlike atmosphere” against the justice system by demeaning its members. “They should consider their responsibilities... playing with institutions has unpredictable developments,” the union said in a statement.

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