NEWS

Exarchia attackers posed as police to sabotage coast guard operation

YIANNIS SOULIOTIS

TAGS: Crime, Politics

The armed men that last week immobilized and disarmed two members of a unit from the Piraeus coast guard which had just completed a drugs raid at a squat in the central Athens district of Exarchia had posed as police officers, Kathimerini understands. 

Authorities say the impersonation of police officers is nothing new among organized gangs and armed groups and that the incident on Thursday last week only confirmed that the practice has become almost routine. 

The 50 or so individuals who attacked the eight Piraeus coast guard officers in Exarchia had been armed with clubs, knives, pistols and Kalashnikov assault rifles and managed to free a woman that had been arrested in the raid. 

However, the woman, identified as a Greek Australian, was tracked down on Thursday to another squat in Exarchia during a police sweep that resulted in two more arrests and the detainment of 90 people for questioning. 

Reliable sources told Kathimerini that the eight officers who conducted last week’s raid – following a lead on a drug trafficking gang – had been confronted as they left the squat on the corner of Themistocleous and Eresou streets by the attackers who cried out, “Police, freeze,” and aimed guns at them.

The officers responded by showing their IDs while another called out to the attackers, “We are colleagues.” It was only when one of the armed men placed his pistol to the temple of one of the officers that it became apparent they were not police. 

The same sources said that the way the unknown assailants – who remain at large – disarmed the two officers was similar to police academy training methods. The assailants reportedly also wore bulletproof vests and other vests worn by crime prevention unit officers. 

Moreover, members of the coast guard unit said the man who aimed his weapon at their colleague’s head spoke Greek and confirmed that the assailants left the scene in two cars. However, senior ranking members of the Greek Police (ELAS) are reportedly doubtful about the testimonies of the coast guard officials. 

ELAS and the coast guard were at loggerheads after the incident last week, with the former claiming it had been informed of the raid only after it had begun. 

Meanwhile, some 200 Exarchia residents and shopkeepers held a demonstration on the corner on the corner of Academias and Themistocleous streets to protest against the rising crime rate, violence and drug dealing in the area.

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