NEWS

Drug addict rattles PM’s security

The Greek police force was reeling yesterday after an apparently disturbed man went on a shooting and arson rampage through central Athens for 90 minutes on Saturday morning, shot up the front of the building in which Prime Minister Costas Simitis lives and managed to drive off in a car before being arrested kilometers away by an officer who had followed him. Simitis was in his apartment at the time. Yesterday, the chief of the Exarchia police precinct was replaced and an inquiry into police actions during the rampage was continuing. The opposition New Democracy party called for Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis to resign. «Greek citizens live in a climate of insecurity,» a spokesman, Vyron Polydoras, charged. The gunman was a drug addict who had been kicked out of a methadone program when he began using heroin again. His rampage began a few kilometers from Simitis’s apartment at 10.20 a. m. when he fired a shotgun at a rehab clinic, forcing doctors to give him a methadone dose. Dimitris Aivadzidis, 38, also allegedly accosted two special police guards on a foot patrol, disarmed a sentry at the Exarchia precinct, and set fire to a car before driving up to Simitis’s apartment in a blue Renault. There, he ordered guards to get out of his way and started shooting before they returned fire. The incident in one of Athens’s most closely guarded areas was described as «especially serious» by the government spokesman. It was a humiliating blow to a police force whose chief was replaced last year (after a fugitive police killer, Costas Passaris, managed to elude special forces even though he had entered an apartment in which they waited to ambush him). Saturday’s shooting took place just off Kolonaki Square, one of the trendiest parts of Athens and home to several prominent citizens – not least the prime minister – who could be terrorist targets. Yet a man with a shotgun was able to shoot up the front of Simitis’s building and then drive away. There was no police cordon around the area. Bullets flew in every direction, with one entering a hairdresser’s on Kolonaki Square, during the busy shopping hours. No one was injured, except for the gunman, who suffered a slight injury to his right thigh in the shootout with police. Aivadzidis was charged yesterday with repeated counts of attempted murder, robbery, arson, damage to property, illegal possession of a weapon and the illegal use of a weapon. He apologized for his actions, saying he had not wanted to kill Simitis or anyone else. He had just wanted, he said, to show that the system does not work. He was being treated in the General State Hospital yesterday. Yesterday, Police Chief Lt Gen. Fotis Nasiakos replaced the chief of the Exarchia precinct, Ioannis Lambropoulos, and an inquiry was continuing to see whether any other police officials were culpable for not stopping Aivadzidis. Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said on Saturday that the police chief had been ordered to carry out an urgent inquiry into how police officers had acted throughout Aivadzidis’s rampage. «Isolated incidents, however unpleasant, do not detract from the efforts that are being made nor their results,»  Chrysochoidis said.