NEWS

Small bombs make Olympic-size waves

Three small bombs exploded outside a police station in Athens’s densely populated Kallithea district in the pre-dawn hours yesterday. They caused no injuries just slight damage to the back of the building and nearby cars. But, coming 100 days before the start of the Athens Olympics, the blasts were heard across the world, causing immense public relations damage to Greece. The attack was obviously aimed at causing embarrassment to the government as it came not only on the highly symbolic 100th day before the Olympics but coincided with Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis’s talks on Olympic security with CIA and FBI officials in Washington. Voulgarakis was accompanied by Police Chief Fotis Nasiakos and intelligence service chief Pavlos Apostolidis. With news of the attack receiving prominent display on international television channels and major news websites, and questions being raised about the safety of the Olympics, the government scrambled to uncouple it from the Games. «This is an isolated incident which does not affect whatsoever the country’s preparations for the Olympics’ safety,» Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said, speaking English in a news conference. «The efforts of the Greek people and their close cooperation with the relevant European Union, NATO and US authorities guarantee the safety of the Athens Olympic Games,» Karamanlis added. The attack was kilometers away from the Inter-Continental, Ledra Marriott and Metropolitan hotels that will host Olympic officials during the Games and are on tightly guarded Syngrou Avenue. It was probably the work of a small extreme-leftist terrorist group, as the attack was almost identical to previous such incidents, police said. In September, a previously unheard of group called Revolutionary Struggle set off two small bombs at the Athens court complex on Evelpidon Street, slightly injuring a policeman who had rushed to the scene of the first blast before the second device exploded. By late last night, however, no group had claimed responsibility. As in the September attack, police believed that the bombs had been set to hurt police officers. An anonymous caller told a telephone operator at the Eleftherotypia daily newspaper at 3.47 a.m. that a bomb would go off in 10 minutes behind the Kallithea police station on Kremou St. Police cordoned off the area before the first bomb exploded at 3.55 a.m. A second explosion followed three minutes later. Having learned from September’s attack, in which the second blast came 20 minutes later, police kept the area cordoned off. At 4.26 a.m. the third device exploded. It had been placed under a parked car about 10 meters away from the first two bombs which caused slight damage to a disused and sealed back entrance to the police station. No one was injured. Anti-terrorism squad chief Gen. Stelios Syros and anti-terrorism prosecutor Dimitris Asproyerakas rushed to the site. Forensics experts said that the explosive devices (sticks of dynamite, a detonator, battery and an alarm clock) were similar to those used in past attacks, such as the one at the law courts, a blast at the Alico insurance company in July and in a device destroyed by police at a Citibank branch in November. «An evaluation of the evidence so far makes it clear that the act was carried out by domestic, extremist elements without special capabilities and potential. Such isolated acts are not connected to the Olympic Games and, of course, cannot affect their security,» Voulgarakis said in a statement.