Bakoyianni in narrow escape

Dora Bakoyianni, mayor-elect of Athens and one of Greece’s most popular politicians, had a narrow escape yesterday when a mentally disturbed man fired at her car with a sawn-off shotgun at point-blank range. The single-bore bullet went through the right back window of Bakoyianni’s silver Saab just as she bent over to pick up something from her bag on the car’s floor. The bullet hit her police driver, going through his neck without causing serious injury and smashing through the driver’s window. Bakoyianni, who had just left her office near the corner of Dionysiou Areopagitou Street and Syngrou Avenue at the foot of the Acropolis, was slightly injured by shards of glass. She was treated at the Evangelismos Hospital and discharged soon after. Her driver, Giorgos Lyberios, 35, was being treated in the same hospital and was not in serious condition, doctors said. Another guard in the car, which was not armored, was unhurt. Members of Bakoyianni’s security detail tried to shoot the gunman but were unable to because a woman was in their line of fire, police spokesman Lefteris Economou told reporters. As they secured the area, a passing member of the Special Guard police who saw the suspect running gave chase. With the help of a guard on duty at the nearby Spanish Embassy, they caught and disarmed him. The suspect was named as Giorgos Sandalis, a 35-year-old car mechanic with a history of psychiatric problems. «Everyone wants to get at me,» he told officers. «(Prime Minister Costas) Simitis wants to catch me to take my DNA.» Economou said the suspect had been treated at the Athens Psychiatric Hospital in 1997 after a prosecutor ordered him to be taken there. Sandalis was being interrogated at police headquarters yesterday, with prosecutor Dimitris Papangelopoulos in attendance. The suspect, who had recently been living in the central town of Livadia, had returned to Athens on Thursday night, his parents told reporters. Bakoyianni was taken upstairs to her office for about half an hour, from where she called family members to tell them she was all right. She was especially concerned that her daughter and son would hear about the attack from news reports. In 1989, their father, her husband, Pavlos Bakoyiannis, was shot and killed by the November 17 terrorist group. She also called her father, former Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis. Shortly afterward, smiling weakly, she was taken by police car to the hospital. Bakoyianni, an MP for the conservative New Democracy party, will take over as mayor of Athens on January 1, after a landslide victory in October’s municipal elections. She recently resigned as ND’s shadow minister of foreign affairs and defense. The government and all political parties condemned the attack. Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who was at the EU summit in Copenhagen, ordered a full investigation when the news reached him, acting government spokesman Telemachos Hytiris said. Bakoyianni’s office said that police had given her an armor-plated car but that it had mechanical problems and she did not use it. Police chief Fotis Nasiakos ordered an official inquiry into why an eight-man security detail had not prevented the gunman from firing at Bakoyianni.

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