Athens locked down as police focus on terror concerns during Obama visit

Athens locked down as police focus on terror concerns during Obama visit

Police have been placed on high alert in the Greek capital in anticipation of Barack Obama’s visit. During the two-day visit of the outgoing US president, which will start Tuesday, access to some parts of central Athens will be restricted and there will be a ban on public gatherings, as authorities are concerned about the prospect of a terrorist attack.

About 4,000 police officers will be deployed as major avenues and roads in downtown Athens will be closed to cars and in some cases pedestrian traffic. In addition to Greek security services, some 300 American agents will be deployed in the capital to protect the president.

Police announced Monday a ban on public gatherings in central Athens as well as the wider Vouliagmeni area, south of the capital, where the luxury hotel that the US president will be staying at is located.

Speaking to Kathimerini, a police source said authorities had maximized security to prevent a terrorist attack on Obama’s convoy.

“There will be police officers, in uniforms and plainclothes, along the route to keep a look out for suspicious movements. This is because we are concerned about the prospect of a protest or even an attack against the American president’s motorcade,” the source said.

Three identical limos will be used in the motorcade to confuse potential attackers, a typical safety measure.

Authorities have inspected and sealed off the areas that Obama is scheduled to visit during his stay, including the Acropolis Museum and the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Foundation, on the capital’s southern coast.

The National Garden next to Maximos Mansion and the Presidential Mansion, several university buildings and 28 schools in the center have also been closed. Several squats are under close monitoring although police stopped short of conducting pre-emptive arrests.

Commercial flights have been temporarily suspended within the Athens FIR from 4.36 a.m. Tuesday until 15.42 Wednesday. A helicopter reportedly equipped with an anti-drone defense system will also be flying over the capital.

The Communist Party-affiliated union, PAME, said Monday it would snub the ban on public gatherings and stick to original plans to stage a demonstration “against the main representative of the imperialist forces,” at 6.30 p.m. in Omonia Square.

The Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire urban guerrilla group has called for “attacks and clashes… to sabotage” Obama’s visit.

Athens metro services will also be disrupted over the two days. Syntagma, Evangelismos, Megaro Mousikis, Acropolis and Syngrou-Fix stations will close as of noon Tuesday, on police orders. Authorities will announce when emergency measures are lifted.

Meanwhile, there will be no metro service to Athens International Airport between 10.20 a.m. and 11.20 a.m. Tuesday.

Adding to commuters’ woes, there will be no metro service from the beginning of the shift until 10 a.m. due to a work stoppage called in reaction to government plans to streamline the capital’s transport system. Workers on the electric ISAP railway on Monday called off their strike.

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