Major bomb blast at Athens court building

Police yesterday were examining the remnants of a large bomb that went off in the morning outside a court building in Ambelokipi, near central Athens, causing widespread damage but no injuries. The bomb exploded at 8.20 a.m. after anonymous warnings were telephoned in to the private television channel Alter and the Eleftherotypia daily. In each case, the caller said that a bomb strapped to a motorcycle would explode outside the Athens Court of First Instance in 40 minutes and gave details of the bike’s registration number. The media organizations briefed the police, who evacuated the court building and cordoned off the area. The blast damaged at least 10 parked cars and the facade of the court building as well as blowing the windows out of nearby apartment blocks. A local resident told Skai TV that he had seen two men dressed in police uniforms pull up near the court building on a motorcycle at around 6.30 a.m. The witness said he spoke to the men, who told him they were abandoning the bike as it had engine problems. The pair then got into a white van parked nearby and were driven away by a third suspect, according to the witness. Police did not confirm the composition of the bomb although sources said it was believed to be made of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (ANFO), a powerful explosive used in quarrying, and TNT. Visiting the scene of the blast, Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis said authorities «would not be intimidated by terrorist acts.» Government spokes-man Giorgos Petalotis stated that authorities «strongly condemn any action that, without moral or popular legitimacy, attempts to undermine our democracy and terrorize its citizens.» A few hours before the bombings, a much smaller blast occurred outside the Greek Embassy in Buenos Aires. «According to the initial findings of the Argentinean police, the blast was caused by a Molotov cocktail thrown by an unidentified assailant,» the Greek Foreign Ministry said. That attack caused minor damage but no injuries, the ministry said. There had been no claim of responsibility by late last night for yesterday’s explosions, which came a few weeks after letter bombs were sent to several foreign embassies in Athens. Two self-professed members of the guerrilla group Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire, Panayiotis Argyrou, 22, and Gerasimos Tsakalos, 24, claimed responsibility for those attacks and are in detention pending trial on terrorism charges. The court targeted in yesterday’s explosion handles civil cases and will not be hearing the January 17 trial of Argyrou, Tsakalos and 11 other suspected members of the group.