Bomb threats irritate

Syntagma Square in central Athens was evacuated early yesterday after what proved to be a bomb hoax, while nobody had yet claimed responsibility for setting off a small homemade bomb outside the Development Ministry in Athens late on Thursday, causing minor damage. Thursday’s bomb, which was controlled by a timing device, exploded at 10.30 p.m. It was placed in a flowerpot outside the ministry’s parking garage. An anonymous caller contacted the Eleftherotypia newspaper half an hour earlier giving warning of the explosion. Police cordoned off the area, diverting traffic on busy Mesogeion Avenue and keeping bystanders a safe distance away from the building. Nobody was injured and there was little damage. The attack came 10 days after a more powerful bomb exploded in the early hours of the morning near the Economy and Finance Ministry off Syntagma Square, slightly injuring three people. The police were criticized for not acting fast enough after a telephone warning. That explosion was claimed by the Revolutionary Struggle group, which also bombed the Labor Ministry earlier in the year. In a proclamation published last Thursday – the same day as the Development Ministry bombing – the group threatened more attacks. The extreme leftist group Popular Revolutionary Action is the other organization suspected of being behind the attack. It has placed small explosive devices outside three construction firms in the last 12 months, claiming the firms made «exorbitant gains» during the building work for the Athens Olympics. Meanwhile, officers also cordoned off Syntagma Square soon after the attack on the Development Ministry because of a warning about another bomb, but this turned out to be a hoax. Panepistimiou Street in central Athens had been closed for two hours earlier in the day after another bomb hoax. Police were also called to a similar false alarm early yesterday morning after a caller rang Eleftherotypia at 1.30 a.m. claiming that a bomb would explode in Syntagma Square in half an hour. Officers with specially trained sniffer dogs were sent to the scene but no explosive devices were found. The hoax caused problems for holiday traffic as the area around the square was closed off and Athenians who were out enjoying the Christmas festivities were forced to find alternative routes.