NEWS

New impetus on war against terrorism

Hopes are growing that the November 17 terrorist organization will soon be unmasked, based on a new political perspective to the investigation, the evaluation of six main events, and the examination of East German Stasi security force files. The events being re-evaluated are the mysterious itinerary of the first announcement, which was sent to the French newspaper Liberation, some findings in Parnitha in 1977, a clash in Gyzi in which Christos Tsoutsouvis was killed, the fiasco on Riancour Street in 1992, the attempt on the life of Yiannis Paliokrassas in 1992 and the murder of Michalis Vranopoulos in 1994. The new political perspective rejects the old scenarios about foreign agents and other similar explanations, and focuses on the fact that terrorist activities in Greece started during the dictatorship in the context of revolutionary internationalism and as a tool in urban combat. Evaluation Few now recall the murder of Richard Welsh, CIA station chief in Athens December 23, 1975, and none of the political leadership of the time took the announcement issued by November 17 seriously. Everyone agreed that it was simply a settling of accounts which was of concern only to security forces. Hence the announcements that were to haunt the Greek political system for almost 30 years were scorned by newspapers and not published. The first shock came a year later, when November 17 murdered Vangelis Mallios, who had been a torturer during the military dictatorship. The shock derived not so much from the killing of the retired police officer, but the way in which the Greek system discovered the organization. Liberation newspaper then published the announcement that had been given to its director, Serge Juillet, by a person Juillet described as «absolutely trustworthy.» Talking to Fivos Economidis, then Eleftherotypia newspaper’s Paris correspondent, Juillet spoke of the intermediary as follows: «It was a friend who had entrusted me in the past with information which was then being confirmed. It is what journalists would call a reliable source. The man himself had been in contact with November 17. A friend got in contact with the organization and gave him the document which he brought to me by hand,» explained Juillet. Who was the intermediary who took the November 17 announcement to another intermediary, who then handed it on to the director of Liberation? His identity remains unknown, but the path of this announcement from Athens to Paris is a key element in the investigation. British and American agents working in Greece on the murder of Brigadier Stephen Saunders have conducted an independent investigation into the itinerary of this announcement. November 17 also sent their announcements to Guardian and BBC correspondent David Tonge, but the investigation is not focusing on this detail. The evidence The second major focus of the investigation is based on evidence found on Parnitha in 1977. Handwritten notes, announcements and lists of telephone numbers found by chance have been subjected to the most meticulous re-evaluation (such as code-breaking) which is said to have proved that the Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA) and November 17 worked together. Two key characters in this collaboration are no longer alive. Christos Kassimis was killed during an attack on the AEG company in October 1977, and Christos Tsoutsouvis was killed in a clash with the police in May 1985. It is still not known how the police came to be involved in an armed fight in the latter case. Police officer V. Bouras was killed in the fight, and G. Georgou died a week later in hospital. Some say that Tsoutsouvis was also involved in the AEG attack. The Gyzi showdown was not the only time the police have come face to face with the supposed terrorists. A few years later, in 1991, police chanced upon a hideout in Sepolia, which led to a high-speed chase, an exchange of gunfire in local streets, and the escape of the suspects. The most notable encounter, known as the Riancour Street fiasco, took place a year later. Information An unknown woman telephoned the authorities to say that some terrorists were holding a meeting in Riancour Street to organize an attack by November 17. The entire anti-terror squad and EKAM commandos arrived on the scene with weapons, cameras and a full plan of action. But the cameras never started rolling because at the critical moment the terrorists, who had been sitting on the same bench as the police, made their escape, leaving behind a stolen van and a revolver stolen from a Vyronas police station. This went down in history as the worst blunder ever by the police and security forces, and the announcement issued by November 17 described the authorities’ plan of action in detail. The organization denied there had been an informant and said the warning telephone call came from a neighbor who was perturbed by the van’s movements and had called the police. A few months later, November 17, which had enjoyed a reputation for accuracy, missed their target. In July 1992, Thanos Axarlian was crossing the road in Syntagma Square when November fired 17 a rocket at Yiannis Paliokrassas, then economy minister, wounding him slightly and killing Axarlian. Investigators link the attempt on the minister’s life directly to the murder of former National Bank governor Michalis Vranopoulos, in January 1994 on Solonos Street. At that time New Democracy was in power and Vranopoulos had formulated a scheme, to which Paliokrassas had made a major contribution, to privatize the bank. The attack, which put an abrupt end to this plan, is also the subject of independent investigation by American and British investigators, who have reached certain conclusions by classifying the terrorist organization’s economic targets. They have also evaluated the following finds: – About 25 shells from two 45s and 10 revolver bullets; – a revolver stolen from the Vyronas police station; – 13 cars and five motorcycles; and 21 empty and three full rocket launchers; – a remote-controlled bomb that was to be used against an American Drug Enforcement Agency official, George Karos. November 17 announced that they had called off this attempt; – two time bombs which did not explode during an attack on a car belonging to Turkish diplomats; – copious remains of bombs and rockets that did explode. – the police also have a hair taken from inside a helmet worn during the attack on American officers in Kavouri. The evidence shows November 17’s preference for 45s, rockets, and old cars, especially Fiats and the old Volkswagen Beetle. These events, together with depositions made by accomplices of the terrorist Carlos the Jackal, which refer to specific individuals who were active in Greece, are the basis for certainty as to the identity of the leader and author of the announcements. The American ambassador to Athens, Thomas Miller, speaking to the Western Policy Center in Washington on Friday, declared categorically: «The leader of November 17 and the author of the announcements are Greeks,» and he added that the Greek authorities were working closely with their American and British counterparts to unmask the organization. He described the terrorists’ murder of British military attache Stephen Saunders as a «mistake,» which proved that terrorism was not just an American fixation, but a serious problem that concerned Greece and other countries. Miller distanced himself from comments made on the «60 Minutes» television program in connection with security for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens: «The people who appeared on that program were not speaking officially on behalf of the American government.» He added that such programs do nothing to help stamp out terrorism.