NEWS

Sudden boom in bomb hoaxes

An anonymous telephone call to police yesterday morning, warning that a bomb had been placed in Thessaloniki’s court complex, turned out to be hoax – the 121st such incident since a time bomb detonated outside Parliament on January 9. Police bomb disposal experts evacuated the court complex immediately after receiving word of the anonymous call. But several hours spent inspecting the premises turned up no suspicious devices. The same drill has been conducted dozens of times in Thessaloniki, Athens and other cities over the past two weeks as anonymous callers take advantage of heightened police sensitivity to potential terrorist attacks following the bloodless blast outside Parliament earlier this month, claimed by the Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire and another lesser-known group. Two such false alarms over the weekend caused concern among the public. On Saturday a hoax caller warned that a bomb would go off in the Attica department store in central Athens while on Sunday a caller told police to prepare for a blast in the Metropolitan Expo exhibition hall at Athens Airport. In the case of the department store hoax, police ordered an immediate evacuation of the busy shopping venue, causing public concern though most people left the area calmly. Ioanna, who had been drinking coffee at the adjacent Zonar’s cafe at the time of the evacuation, told Kathimerini: «I saw people getting up and leaving the cafe en masse – not in a panic but quickly heading toward the exit. My sister had just gone to the bathroom so I went to get her and we got out.» On discovering that the bomb threat had been a hoax, Ioanna was unimpressed. «Many of us were still sensitive after the bomb outside Parliament and we had no desire for such jokes,» she said. The bomb threat at Athens Airport caused similar anxiety and aggravation for the dozens of businesses at the exhibition. «We spent a lot of money to take part in this show,» one exhibitor remarked to Kathimerini. «First we had the economic crisis, then the bad weather, now it’s bomb hoaxes. What’s it going to be next?»