Thursday, February 19, 2009

Greece's Urban Guerillas

The following article from about urban guerillas in Greece:

Analysis: New brand of domestic terror in Greece seeks maximum havoc

By ELENA BECATOROS | Associated Press Writer
3:12 AM EST, February 19, 2009

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A new and possibly more dangerous generation of Greek extremists is escalating attacks against police and symbols of capitalism, years after authorities believed they had stamped out domestic terrorism.

Police were dealing with two terror attempts within the last two days — one in which a powerful car bomb with more than 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of explosives was planted outside Citibank offices, and another in which gunmen opened fire with a submachine gun outside a TV station.

Although the Wednesday car bomb did not explode and the shooting the day before caused no injuries, they come on the heels of a spate of attacks in the past few months. Nobody has been killed so far but authorities are alarmed that the terror tactics appear to demonstrate a desire to carry out indiscriminate slaughter. Police, for example, received no warning call about the car bomb — a break with extremists' usual practice in Greece.

Greek terror groups, which have been active in Greece for decades, have never aimed for mass casualties in the style of the Irish Republican Army or Islamic jihadists. They have modeled themselves more on the 1970s European radical left-wing groups which carried out targeted killings, such as Italy's Red Brigades or Germany's Red Army Faction.

Although most such groups were eradicated in the rest of Europe, they endured in Greece, where they emerged from the resistance to the 1967-74 military dictatorship that left a legacy of deep-rooted mistrust of authority.

They have sought to portray themselves as urban revolutionaries who champion the poor and fight for the oppressed, and espoused anti-capitalist, anti-American and anti-European Union rhetoric.

But experts fear the current generation, such as Revolutionary Struggle which first appeared in 2003 and is best known for firing a rocket-propelled grenade at the U.S. Embassy in 2007, are motivated less by ideology than a desire to carry out carnage, and have shown little interest in winning public support.

"The situation is very serious," Michalis Chrisochoides, who was public order minister when members of Greece's deadliest terrorist organization November 17 were arrested in 2002, told The Associated Press. November 17 was named after the date the dictatorship sent tanks into the Athens Polytechnic to crush a student uprising in 1973. It enjoyed at least some public support in its early days, when its targets included the CIA station chief in Athens.

The group acted with impunity for nearly three decades, killing 23 people until a botched bombing in 2002 led to the arrest and conviction of more than a dozen members.

But current militants "are much more violent and much more murderous," Chrisochoides said.

There is also concern that the groups are seeking to exploit the December riots, sparked by the fatal police shooting of a teenager, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, and the growing financial crisis, which is now starting to bite in Greece.

"The credit crisis that broke out a few months ago is nothing more than the start of a speedy disintegration of a system that has been rotting for years behind the shiny but fake wrapping of apparent economic prosperity," Revolutionary Struggle said last month in a statement claiming responsibility for a gun and grenade attack that critically wounded a riot policeman.

"From here on, we can only defend the value of the human lives of the poor, the dispossessed, the damned of this society with weapons," the group said. "We will defend the values of our lives by turning against those who on a daily basis and in every way mock and devalue them and in the end take them away."

The rambling 9,000-word statement can also be seen as a call to arms for any other groups that might be willing to take up the mantle of "urban guerrilla fighters."

Greece's apparently newest extremists, who call themselves Sect of Revolutionaries, might have heeded that call, although some experts believe they are connected to Revolutionary Struggle or could be a splinter group.

They entered the scene with a gun and grenade attack against an Athens police station last month that caused no injuries, and are suspected of being behind Tuesday's attack on the TV station.

Their proclamation, in which they vow to expand targets to include journalists and politicians, was striking for its cynicism and lack of political ideology or any attempt to garner public support.

"From now on the life of every cop is worth as much as a bullet, while their bodies are the ideal target practice," said the group.

Police officers, "like the doughnuts that they eat, are no good without a hole in the middle," said the statement.

Criminology professor Vasilis Karydis noted that the text opens with a quote from the Red Army Faction, considered among Europe's most violent.

Sect of Revolutionaries "gives the impression of extreme violence at any price and without too many explanations," Karydis said.

As the statement said: "We don't feel the need to justify or even explain our action. We don't do politics, we do guerrilla warfare."

Brady Kiesling, a former political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Athens who is writing a book on November 17, said the departure from Greek extremist tradition of careful targeting was alarming.

"The sense that human life is precious has protected Greece from violence for a long time, and now you have a group saying it's not precious. It could be bravado, but it could be that the old social (belief) has worn off," Kiesling said.

"If that's true, things are dangerous."


Elena Becatoros is AP's Athens bureau chief.

1 comment:

  1. I'm pretty impressed that the former public order minister could keep a straight face saying that "current militants 'are much more violent and much more murderous,' [than in the past]" when they don't appear to have actually killed anyone. Is violence strictly rhetorical, or do bombs that go off when noone is around furnish the evidence for "a desire to carry out indiscriminate slaughter." The fact that the article suggests that particular groups/individuals might be targeted (should this 'targeting' have any effect on actual people in future) would also seemingly contradict the 'indiscriminate' part...

    And I suppose we don't know that the ex-Minister kept a straight face; text journalism doesn't give us that avenue of evaluation...