Embassies targeted in wave of Athens parcel bombs

By Renee Maltezou

ATHENS (BestGrowthStock) – Small bombs exploded at the Swiss and Russian embassies in Athens on Tuesday and a possible bomb was intercepted at the German chancellor’s office, the latest in a wave of attacks by suspected Greek leftist guerrillas.

Police had already arrested two Greeks aged 22 and 24 on Monday in possession of two bombs including one addressed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The latest incidents took the total of actual or suspected bombs to 11 since Monday.

“It seems that this is a continuation of yesterday’s attacks and that Greek guerrillas are behind it, but we are still investigating,” police spokesman Thanassis Kokkalakis said.

Police said on Monday that one of the two arrested men may be a member of the Fire Conspiracy Cells, who have staged several attacks on government targets over the past year.

Greeks have become used to gas canister and bomb attacks against public buildings and police stations in the last two years, as well as anti-capitalist urban guerrilla attacks down the decades.

The wave of bombs may be intended to galvanize an anti-government vote in Sunday’s local elections.

Prime Minister George Papandreou’s Socialists already fear a backlash against the radical tax hikes, pension freezes and cuts in spending and public sector wages they have imposed.

DOZEN ARRESTS

The attackers may also want to demonstrate that they are still active after the arrests of more than a dozen suspected members of guerrilla groups this year.

Papandreou vowed to “be merciless to those who attempt in vain to rock social peace with terrorist acts and hurt our country’s image internationally during a very difficult period.”

The two arrested men were both charged with participating in a terrorist group and with illegal possession of explosives and weapons, a court official said.

No one was injured at the Swiss or Russian embassies, and Greek police said the bombs that had been found were mostly too small to kill anyone.

“When the external packaging was removed, the contents burst into flames,” a Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Other parcel bombs found on Tuesday included one outside parliament addressed to the Chilean embassy, one each at the Chilean and Bulgarian embassies, and one addressed to the German embassy, at the offices of a courier company.

In Germany, the daily Berliner Morgenpost said the return address of the suspect package intercepted at Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office in Berlin was the “Greek Economy Ministry.”

It quoted a security expert as saying the package could have exploded.

“CREATING FEAR”

In Greece, Vassilis Pergalias at the Institute for Security and Defense Analysis said the attackers wanted to “terrorize people and mar Greece’s image abroad, in an adverse economic environment and just before (Sunday’s) local elections.”

“They are doing it to impress,” he said. “They want to create a sentiment of fear. They wouldn’t benefit from loss of life, because then the public would turn against them.”

On Monday, a bomb blew up at a courier office in Athens, slightly wounding an employee. Police also intercepted a bomb at another delivery company destined for the Dutch embassy, and found another addressed to the Belgian embassy in the possession of the arrested suspects.

Papandreou, in office for only 13 months and nervous about a popular backlash in the local polls, has threatened to call a snap parliamentary election if voters do not back his austerity policies.

Blanka Kolenikova, an analyst at IHS Global Insight, said the austerity program, agreed with the European Union and International Monetary Fund as a way of rescuing Greece from a debt mountain and near-insolvency, was likely to be the main trigger for the wave of bombs. “…Given that left-wing militants tend to blame the country’s fiscal woes on ‘the wheels of capitalism’, the unpopular cost-cutting measures could see recruits to such groups increasing,” she said.

Greece’s stock market took the attacks in its stride, and shares closed little changed.

(Additional reporting by Harry Papachristou, Angeliki Koutantou, Yannis Behrakis, George Georgiopoulos; editing by Ingrid Melander and Kevin Liffey)

Embassies targeted in wave of Athens parcel bombs