NEWS

Police probe links to murder of DIAS officers

The guns used to shoot dead two policemen on Tuesday had not been used in other crimes, police sources said on Wednesday following ballistics tests, but officers believe the attack may have been carried out by robbers that were previously active in central Greece.

Source said that police are examining whether the findings from the Volvo SUV abandoned near the site of the shooting in Rendi, southeastern Athens, can be matched to evidence gathered from a property in Viotia, central Greece, following a robbery at a branch of National Bank in nearby Aspra Spitia.

Police believe the two incidents may be linked because in both cases the perpetrators rode in Volvo SUVs that had been stolen from a used car dealership in northern Athens on January 17.

Officers in central Greece had reason to believe that the suspected bank robbers were ethnic Greeks from Russia, which is a lead that police in Athens are also following up on.

The four suspects, who opened fire on eight officers of the DIAS motorcycle-riding squad that were pursuing them on Tuesday, had earlier held up a street kiosk using Kalashnikov assault rifles. As a result, police are also reexamining the evidence collected after a robbery at a kiosk in Ano Liossia on February 8, which resulted in the 45-year-old owner being shot dead. Sources said that officers had found a fingerprint in the car abandoned after the robbery, which matches that of an ethnic Greek from Russia, whose details they have on file.

Two other officers were injured in Tuesday?s shooting but they were both thought to be out of danger. One was hit in the knee and may leave hospital on Thursday, but the other policeman is due to undergo a second operation, although he is in a stable condition.

The deaths of Giorgos Skyloyiannis, 22, and Yiannis Evangelinelis, 23, prompted their colleagues to highlight the dangers faced by members of the DIAS squad, which was set up last year. The head of the Attica Special Guards? Union, Vassilis Doumas, said that the average age of those serving in the squad is 25 and that most of them are from rural areas. He added that they earn a basic salary of 720 euros. Doumas called for more funding for the squad, which has been credited with success in tackling crime. ?DIAS has helped crack more than 50 criminal organizations – the criminals wanted to kill because we make their lives difficult,? he said.