NEWS

Huge Greek-US military drill

On Wednesday, three days after the national election and under a complete news blackout, some 2,000 security personnel – including 400 US soldiers – are to launch the biggest anti-terrorism exercise held so far in Greece in the runup to the August Olympics. Very little has been made public concerning the politically sensitive, two-week exercise, for which not even a codename has been announced. While ensuring that armed US troops will not land on Greek soil before the elections, the government has refused to reveal the precise legal status under which the American military personnel will be operating. Public Order Minister Giorgos Floridis, who discussed the drill with US officials in Washington in January, said the drill – which he had initially described as lasting 20 days – would be «more of a police nature» than a military maneuver. The exercise is mostly expected to take place in Attica, with some action in Thessaloniki, Patras, Iraklion and Volos, where Olympic soccer matches are to be held. It is understood that no advance warning whatsoever will be issued to the public in areas to be affected by the exercise, as was the case during a three-day security exercise by Greek forces last month in Piraeus and southern Attica. The scenario is expected to include a plane hijacking, an attack with weapons of mass destruction, and a raid on an Olympic venue followed by hostage-taking. Apart from the 400 US soldiers, 1,500 Greek security forces will take part in the exercise, while dozens of foreign observers will attend. Last week, Greek police, coast guard and fire brigade officers held a two-day exercise to test electronic security systems ahead of the August 13-29 Games. These include a large network of surveillance cameras.