One dead in ministry bomb attack

In one of the most brazen terrorist attacks to ever take place in Greece, a device exploded last night next to the office of Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis in the ministry building near central Athens, killing his assistant. Initial reports suggest that the explosion was caused by a parcel bomb that the minister’s assistant, 52-year-old Giorgos Vassilakis, a married father of two, opened at around 8.30 p.m., triggering a blast that brought down the wall between his and Chrysochoidis’s office. The minister was not in his office at the time. «We will not cease in the effort to keep our citizens and neighborhoods safe and to bring these cowardly murderers to justice,» said Chrysochoidis shortly before 10 p.m. «Personally, I lost a valuable and beloved colleague.» It was not immediately clear how the explosive device found its way into one of the most heavily guarded buildings in Greece. Initial reports that the airport-style X-ray machine, through which packages going into the building are passed, was not working were denied. No group had claimed responsibility for the attack by late last night. The ministry building houses the offices of some of Greece’s top policemen as well as the anti-terrorist squad. The intelligence services also use the building, located off Katehaki Avenue. There were no reports of any other serious injuries as a result of the blast. Chrysochoidis has earned plaudits recently as, under his leadership, there have been significant breakthroughs in the fight against domestic terrorism. In April, six suspected members of Revolutionary Struggle, the most active domestic terrorist group in Greece in recent years, were arrested after police raided an apartment in Kypseli, near central Athens, and discovered a large haul of weapons. Last week, police confirmed that a rocket-propelled grenade launcher found in the suspected hideout was the one used in a bloodless hit on the US Embassy in January 2007 – an attack claimed by Revolutionary Struggle.