NEWS

A point-by-point examination of last Friday’s grenade attack on the US Embassy in Athens

Who are the new generation of terrorists? Who is their leader? What relation do they bear to November 17? Did the police know that an attack was imminent? What is the state of the Anti-Terrorism Service? How will the investigation proceed? Here are the answers, as drawn from the evidence gathered by authorities and the views of expert analysts: 1. Who are the main suspects for the rocket attack on the American Embassy? The majority of analysts who study terrorism in Greece believe that the Revolutionary Struggle organization is behind the attack. They believe that that this group comprises three to four people at the most, at least one of whom has been arrested and jailed in the past. A judge with extensive experience in combating terrorism predicted some years ago that the 35-year-old in question would «emerge as a leader in the field,» and he added: «I have seen the bloodlust in his eyes.» In one case, in which a bomb was placed outside the Economy Ministry, there were indications linking the act with someone long known to the security police, but there was insufficient evidence to warrant his arrest. 2. If the alleged leader of the new generation of terrorists is known to the authorities, why cannot he be put under close surveillance? Experienced officers talk about «a real headache» with this top suspect, who has effectively eluded watch by authorities. «We have seen him literally dismantle his motorcycle to see if any Greek or foreign agency has planted a transmitter on it,» said a veteran officer who had dealt with the case in the past. «He gets up at 3 a.m., goes around the block 20 times then leaves.» In the past there was evidence that this suspect had a hideout in the woods of the southern suburbs, but several searches found nothing of use. Experienced officers admit that the their target disappears sometimes for days and cannot be located as he avoids using mobile phones and anything else that might expose him. 3. Is Revolutionary Struggle connected with November 17? Everyone wants an answer to this question – and as soon as possible. The identity of the rocket does not reveal any physical connection to N17. However, sources say that members of Revolutionary Struggle have been in contact with the members of N17, who are in Korydallos Prison, and possibly with people who collaborate with it as part of a broader guiding nucleus and have never been arrested. Greek and foreign analysts are keen in any case to hear the deposition of jailed N17 member Dimitris Koufodinas at the Appeals Court today to see if he expresses approval of the action against the embassy. After all, firing a rocket into the building on Vassilissis Sofias had been an obsession of jailed N17 leader Alexandros Yotopoulos ever since the time of the (1967-1974) dictatorship. While being interrogated by the then head of the terrorist service, Stelios Spyros, N17 member Savvas Xeros stated that the action he was planning, before the bomb exploded in his hands in Piraeus, was to fire a remote-controlled rocket what would be set on top of a trolley bus on Vassilisis Sofias. An official handling the terrorism case recently told Kathimerini that «a struggle is developing over which of the ‘armed’ groups will take over from N17. Don’t rule out the possibility of an action with the historic. 45 which Koufodinas had, and which was never found. If you see that you’ll realize that the baton has been passed on ‘officially’ to a new generation.» 4. Did the authorities have any information about an imminent attack? Yes. Experienced police officers had warned government officials that it was just a matter of time before there was a spectacular attack, though they could not predict when or where. As a seasoned security official frequently warned: «We are seeing a new, more violent and more audacious generation of terrorists breaking out of their shells. We can see the snakes come out and flee into the bushes. If we don’t do anything now we’ll lose them and we’ll find ourselves back in the 1980s.» Officials in key positions believe that as the unsolved attacks pile up, the new terrorists will become more daring. «They clearly intended to kill a person,» said one experienced police officer. Most analysts expected the attack would come at the end of the N17 trial at the Appeals Court. 5. Were foreign governments worried? Rather, most of all the British. American officials often expressed their concern about the many unsolved incidents and spoke of the «slackening» of security services after the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. They also complained that they did not have a direct interlocutor in the prime minister’s office and that there was difficulty communicating or consulting with both the current public order minister and his predecessor. «It was as if we were speaking a different language. Tackling terrorism was not a priority for anyone at the political level,» commented a former American diplomat. The British were more concerned due to the murder of the special guard outside the residence of their military attache. They made representations at the highest diplomatic level, asking for a far-reaching reorganization of the anti-terrorist service. They often protested that staff they had trained for highly special tasks were transferred for no reason to other positions in the police force. The British probably had the best impression of the Greek services due to their cooperation following the 2000 murder by N17 of the British military attache Stephen Saunders. Both the Americans and the British see Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis as the only reliable person to talk to on issues related to terrorism and as «the only one who understood.»