Mayors warn of racist gangs

The mayors of Athens and a town in northeastern Greece where Muslims and Christians have lived peacefully for many years warned Thursday that their communities had to stand up to extremist thugs who have been targeting minorities and immigrants.

?When fellow human beings are being stabbed on an almost daily basis, society has to be alert and the state has to lead the perpetrators to justice,? said Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis.

An Iraqi man was stabbed to death in the capital last weekend in a suspected racist attack. The Migrant Workers? Union claims that more than 500 immigrants have been injured in racially motivated attacks over the last six months.

?The rule of law is the only guarantee to exit this crisis of violence, which is prompted by the large number of illegal migrants entering the country and the attempts of motorcycle-riding fascist gangs to take the law into their own hands,? said Kaminis.

Stylianos Hatzievangelou, the mayor of Topeiro, near Xanthi, said that ?extremists? had been harassing Muslims in the town. ?We have put a lot of effort into ensuring our residents are treated as equal citizens and we are not going to let this pass unchallenged,? he told Kathimerini.

?We warn this small group of dangerous, idiotic thugs that we will stand in the way of their plans. We will find them and stop them.?

Sources said that the police are thinking of expanding their clampdown on illegal immigration, through a widespread stop-and-search operation known as Xenios Zeus, to cities other than Athens. Since it began this month, more than 8,000 migrants have been detained, of whom 1,673 were arrested. Police said that only one in five of those detained is arrested as the others have residence papers.

The Pakistani Community of Greece claimed Thursday that two Pakistani men, Gul Zeb and Khaled Masud, detained at Aegaleo police station in Athens on Tuesday, were abused by policemen. Officers allegedly gripped Zeb?s fingers with pliers and shaved off Masud?s mustache. The group is planning a demonstration in Omonia Square at 6 p.m. next Friday, along with the Migrant Workers? Union and United Against Racism and the Fascist Threat.