NEWS

Terrorists strike US Embassy with missile

A missile struck the US Embassy in Athens yesterday in an attack believed to have been carried out by far-left militants but which caused no injuries and minimal damage. The small anti-tank missile smashed through the building's glass facade, just missing the embassy's large blue-and-white seal, shortly before 6 a.m. The missile, which landed in a bathroom near the ambassador's office on the third floor, must have been launched from Lampsakou Street, a side-road directly opposite the heavily guarded building, police said. «I am treating this as a very serious attack,» US Ambassador Charles Ries told reporters. «The embassy was attacked in a senseless act of violence.» Ries said the attack would not damage ties between the US and Greece. Greek officials were quick to condemn the attack and vowed to catch the perpetrators. «It is very likely that this is the work of a domestic group,» Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras said. «We believe that this effort to revive terrorism is deplorable and will not succeed,» he said. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis visited Ries at the embassy where she condemned the attack. «Such acts have cost us dearly in the past. The government will do everything in its power to ensure they are not repeated,» she said. Bakoyannis also sent a message to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denouncing the attack. Polydoras said police were examining telephone calls to a private security company by unidentified callers, claiming that a militant left-wing group called Revolutionary Struggle had claimed responsibility for the attack. «We cannot rule out that (the claims) were genuine,» Polydoras said. Police were examining video footage from surveillance cameras in the area and inspecting nearby cars for fingerprints that might lead them to the perpetrators. The Public Order Ministry said late yesterday that the missile which hit the embassy was a Chinese-made RPG 7 with a diameter of 40mm. Experts believe the missile was likely manufactured in 1974. A preliminary assessment of footage and witness accounts suggested the attack was carried out by two assailants who approached Lampsakou Street by foot and fled after the attack by motorcycle or car, sources told Kathimerini. Concerned that yesterday's attack would have a negative impact on Greece's image, the Public Order Ministry appointed the former head of the country's anti-terrorist squad, Stelios Syros, to lead a «task force» which will investigate the blast. Syros is credited with being the man who coordinated the capture of November 17 members and his appointment is an indication of how seriously the government is taking this latest terrorist attack. Greece had hoped that it had seen the last of serious domestic terrorist activity with the downfall of N17 in 2002 but the emergence of Revolutionary Struggle in particular has made it clear that the problem has not been totally eradicated. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said US and Greek authorities would cooperate to find the culprits behind yesterday's attack. FBI officials are expected in Athens today, diplomatic sources told Kathimerini. Greek officials think that the current crop of terrorists may have a loose connection with N17 but they do not believe that there are any strong links with the disbanded terrorist group. Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras said that he was hopeful that the new groups could be «brought under control.» History of strikes by Revolutionary Struggle Leftist guerilla group Revolutionary Struggle is suspected to be behind the rocket-propelled grenade attack against the US Embassy in Athens yesterday. - Revolutionary Struggle emerged on September 6, 2003, with a bomb attack on an Athens court building, which injured one policeman. - On March 14, 2004, a homemade explosive device goes off outside a branch of Citibank in Neo Psychico, central Athens. - On May 5, 2004, three explosive devices go off outside a police station in Kallithea, southern Athens. - On October 29, 2004, a roadside bomb attack takes place on a police convoy on Petrou Ralli Avenue, central Athens. - On June 2, 2005, a time bomb explodes outside the Labor Ministry in central Athens. - On December 12, 2005, a time bomb remotely detonated goes off outside the Economy and Finance Ministry in central Athens. - On May 30, 2006, a time bomb goes off close to the home of Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis. None of the attacks have been fatal. None of the group's members have ever been arrested.

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