Fresh attack, protests keep Athens on edge

The unrest in Athens showed no sign of abating yesterday, as the city's French Institute became the latest target for rioters and students vowed to continue their public protests next week and in January. A group of about 30 masked people forced their way into the courtyard of the French Institute in the upmarket neighborhood of Kolonaki at about 11.30 a.m. The assailants smashed property and threw a Molotov cocktail at a guard post at the entrance to the building. They also destroyed an ATM. Nobody was hurt in the attack. The assailants fled before police arrived. «Clearly, it was an organized attack,» said French Ambassador Christophe Farnaud, who refused to speculate about who may have been behind the attack. «We have already, after last week's incidents, warned [French] travelers to Greece to take care in the city center,» said Farnaud, adding that French cultural institutions in Greece would be closed as a precaution. The motives for the attack were not clear but graffiti that was spray-painted on nearby walls suggested that it was an attempt to link unrest in Greece with student protests in France. «Spark in Athens. Fire in Paris. Insurrection is coming,» read one message. «France, Greece, uprising everywhere,» read another. Apart from the attack on the French Institute, the streets of central Athens were quieter yesterday, despite protests by unionists and hundreds of students attending a free concert in front of Athens University. Leftist students are due to protest in this spot from 3 p.m. today and have also organized a rally for Tuesday next week. Plans have also been made for a protest in early January. More than 1,500 people protested peacefully yesterday in the western suburb of Peristeri following the mysterious shooting of a 16-year-old on Wednesday night. The teenager was struck in the hand by a bullet fired by an unidentified assailant while sitting in a park with friends. The police admitted yesterday that they had made a mistake in their initial statement that the boy was hit by an air-gun pellet. Tests revealed it was a bullet from a 38 mm gun. Sources told Kathimerini that the bullet was probably fired from a distance of some 80 meters. Officers are investigating the incident, anxious to disprove rumors that an off-duty or undercover policeman fired the shot.