Police seek terror hideout after arresting Maziotis in Athens shootout
Police on Wednesday were seeking a hideout or other clues that could shed light on the activities of Revolutionary Struggle after Nikos Maziotis, the leader of the leftist guerrilla group, was arrested following a dramatic shootout in central Athens.
Maziotis, who had been at large since summer 2012 after violating his conditional release with his wife Panayiota Roupa, was seriously injured in an exchange of fire with police in the busy Athens district of Monastiraki, which also left a policeman with minor injuries and slightly hurt two tourists – a German and an Australian.
Police sources indicated yesterday that the force is close to arresting Roupa as well as November 17 hit man Christodoulos Xeros, who disappeared during a prison furlough in January.
As regards the search for Maziotis’s hideout, counterterrorism officers are focusing on an area running from Patissia in central Athens to Grammatiko in northeastern Attica, sources told Kathimerini. It is thought that Maziotis could have one or more weapons caches there.
Police believe Maziotis used a forged identity card – bearing his photo and the name Michalis Michelakis – to rent a property that could have operated as a hideout. The ID card was used to buy a silver Hyundai Accent that has been linked to a bank robbery in Kleitoria, Achaia prefecture, in March and is believed to have been used by Maziotis to travel to and around Attica. Police on Wednesday appealed to anyone with information about the vehicle – whose license plate is YHT 2959 – to come forward.
Police had been monitoring the center after receiving tip-offs according to which Maziotis had been sighted in Monastiraki, Omonia Square and other parts of central Athens in recent weeks.
He was spotted on Wednesday by counterterrorism officers close to Omonia, was followed and then stopped outside a store selling camping goods on the corner of Athinas and Ermou streets. Officers ordered him to surrender, but he fired his gun, prompting police to fire back. He then fled on foot through the streets of Monastiraki, which were packed with tourists, pursued by police officers. Police finally cornered him on Mitropoleos Street, where there was another exchange of fire and Maziotis was immobilized after being hit in the shoulder by a police bullet. At one point during the chase, Maziotis tried to get into a taxi but staggered and fell. The cabbie sped off but was finally traced by police who detained him and were seeking to establish whether he was Maziotis’s accomplice or had happened to be passing through the area before panicking and fleeing after getting caught in the standoff.
The 42-year-old underwent surgery at Evangelismos Hospital on Wednesday evening and remained under armed guard with sources indicating that he would have to remain in the hospital for two weeks. A 29-year-old police officer hit in the thigh by one of the eight bullets Maziotis is said to have fired was being treated in a military hospital.
The 19-year-old Australian tourist was hospitalized for treatment to light shrapnel wounds while the German tourist declined hospital care and returned instead to Piraeus to continue with his cruise. The Australian was visited in the hospital by three cabinet members – Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni, Health Minister Makis Voridis and Public Order Minister Vassilis Kikilias.
Since his disappearance in July 2012, Maziotis has been linked to six armed robberies as well as an armed attack on New Democracy’s offices on Syngrou Avenue and a car bomb blast outside the Bank of Greece in the city center.
Maziotis and his wife Roupa have been at the top of the Greek police’s most wanted list since July 2012 when they failed to honor the terms of their conditional release, which came after both had served the maximum of 18 months in pretrial custody. Earlier this year police offered 1 million euros for information leading to either of the two.