NEWS

City murder fuels racial tension

Hundreds of protesters converged on Thursday at the spot on Triti Septemvriou Street near central Athens where a 44-year-old man was fatally stabbed on Tuesday but the gathering was quickly hijacked by far-rightists who appear convinced that immigrants were behind the attack.

Meanwhile police were investigating the fatal stabbing in the same area of a 21-year-old Bangladeshi man. Police said the man was stabbed early Thursday in a neighborhood with a large migrant population and burgeoning far-right presence but they did not say that the attack was racially motivated.

On Thursday afternoon, suspected members of extreme-right organizations chased groups of immigrants down side streets and threw Molotov cocktails at police officers when they arrived to disperse them. More than 12 people were injured in the clashes, according to police.

Far-rightists had also converged in the area on Tuesday, a few hours after the fatal stabbing of the 44-year-old man who had been preparing to take his pregnant wife to hospital when he was attacked by assailants who stole his video camera.

Although there has been no official announcement about the ethnic origin of the attackers, the protesters chanted anti-immigrant slogans such as ?Foreigners out? and ?Greece is for Greeks.?

In a written statement issued on Wednesday, Prime Minister George Papandreou condemned the murder of the 44-year-old and declared that measures would be heralded next week to improve safety for city dwellers. ?We are determined to guarantee the safety of citizens and to take all the necessary measures,? the premier said.

Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis was more outspoken in comments made on Skai Television on Thursday, expressing his fear that Athens would soon resemble Beirut in the 1970s if immediate action is not taken to crack down on spiraling crime.