No big holdups as Athenians begin slow return to city after Easter Thousands of Athenians began returning to the city last night following the Easter break, without any major problems on the roads, traffic police said. In fact, officers said that during Holy Week the number of road accidents that resulted in injuries or deaths were down 24 percent in comparison to last year despite the fact that this Easter proved to be the busiest on the national roads for the last few years. It is estimated that more than a million vehicles left Athens last week. It was not clear last night how many had returned to the capital but it is expected that quite a large number of Athenians will not come back until later in the week as they will also be taking advantage of the May Day public holiday on Thursday. (Page 3) FIREWORK INJURY Cretan man loses a hand in explosion during celebrations on the island A 25-year-old man from Crete was being treated at the KAT hospital in Athens yesterday after having one of his hands blown off by a firework early on Sunday. The man, who was not named, was taking part in Easter celebrations on Crete when the accident occurred. Precise details of how he was injured were not made public. This year, authorities have tried to clamp down on the sale of fireworks, whose sale is not permitted during Easter. The 25-year-old’s accident was the only injury reported up to last night. TOKAS DIES Composer succumbs to cancer at 52 Cypriot composer Marios Tokas, who had a sustained period of success in Greece where he worked with a number of top singers, died in Athens on Sunday. He was 52 and had been battling cancer for the last few months. Tokas was born in Limassol, where he also studied music, before coming to Greece in 1975. The first recording of his work, sung by Manolis Mitsias, was released three years later. Tokas went on to work with several other popular Greek singers, including Yiannis Parios, Haris Alexiou and Dimitris Mitropanos. In 2001, he was given an award for «outstanding contribution» to Cyprus. Tokas’s funeral is due to take place at Athens’s First Cemetery today. The costs are being undertaken by the Cypriot government. Fierce argument Three people, including an 11-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy, were shot in the legs during an argument between Gypsy families in Zefyri, northwestern Athens, on Sunday. Shots were fired after a row broke out at the Gypsy encampment in the area. A 30-year-old man was also injured by shots from a hunting rifle. The three injured were taken to hospital for treatment. The young boy and the 30-year-old were discharged after a few hours but the 11-year-old girl was kept at the hospital overnight for observation. Airplane trouble An air ambulance suffered considerable damage when attempting to take off from Athens International Airport on Saturday. Officials said that the airplane’s brakes became stuck, which caused its tires to burst. The German aircraft traveled some distance before stopping, which caused damage to the runway. None of the crew was injured and the patient on board also escaped unhurt. Meanwhile, a German charter flight to Rhodes was forced to land at Macedonia Airport in Thessaloniki late on Thursday night after a passenger fell ill. Medical assistance was on hand but the woman, who was not named, was pronounced dead shortly after the flight touched down in Thessaloniki. Koukodimos return? Independent MP Costas Koukodimos said on Sunday that he soon hopes to be inducted back into New Democracy, having left the party’s parliamentary group in January. Koukodimos, a former long jump champion, made his decision after being implicated in the Zachopoulos scandal. Journalist Makis Triandafyllopoulos alleged that Koukodimos had approached him on behalf of then financial crimes squad boss Spyros Kladas to ask for the latter’s name not to be linked to the Culture Ministry scandal, in return for the dropping of a probe into the finances of the journalist’s former business partner Themos Anastasiadis. Koukodimos has always denied any wrongdoing. Protection racket Police have arrested three men in Thessaloniki accused of attempting to blackmail a cafe owner into paying them a monthly fee in exchange for «protection» of his store. The three suspects, aged 24, 28 and 32, had demanded 400 euros per month from the store owner who reported the incident to police. After an investigation by authorities, the three men were arrested and were expected to face charges over the weekend. Cars damaged Two improvised explosive devices went off outside a post office in Peristeri, western Athens, on Sunday morning, damaging two cars, authorities said. There were no reports of injuries and no one has claimed responsibility for the attack. In a separate incident, a furniture store in Kallithea caught fire on Sunday, causing damage, firefighters said. The cause of the blaze is not yet known. Drive-by fatality Two men traveling on a motorcycle shot and killed one man and injured a second in Nea Smyrni, southeastern Athens, police said. The attack took place on Friday night when the victims were leaving a cafeteria with a third man who was unharmed in the incident. Police described the incident as a gangland-style hit involving local gangs of Albanians. No further details were given. Gym targeted Two stores and a parked car were damaged in Kallithea, southern Athens, early on Saturday when a bomb went off in a gymnasium above the two retailers, police said. The bomb, which exploded at around 4.25 a.m., was likely to have been placed in the gymnasium by gangs involved in protection rackets, police added. There were no reports of injuries.