January 12, 2007

Blast rips through U.S. embassy compound in Athens

An explosion ripped through the U.S. embassy compound in central Athens today but no one was hurt, a U.S. embassy spokesman said. Greek anti-terrorist officers were on the scene and investigating. It was not clear what - or who - caused the blast. Police officials at the scene said that whatever caused the explosion damaged the official embassy sign outside the mission, but there was little other indication of the extent of damage inside. Greece's biggest domestic security threat, the leftist November 17 guerrilla group, which had in the past killed U.S. and other foreign diplomats in Greece, was dismantled in 2002.

Update: Blast at U.S. embassy called 'terrorism'. Greece's Public Order Minister said police were examining the authenticity of anonymous phone calls to a private security company claiming responsibility on behalf of Revolutionary Struggle, a militant left-wing group. Revolutionary Struggle claimed responsibility for a May 2006 bomb attack on Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis, in which nobody was injured. "This is an act of terrorism," Police Chief Asimakis Golfis said. "There was a shell that exploded in the toilets of the building ... It was fired from street level." Police have set up a special task force, headed by a former counterterrorism chief who eradicated the November 17 group in 2002. The group was blamed for killing 23 people — including U.S., British and Turkish officials — and dozens of bomb attacks.

Several obscure militant groups have appeared since the November 17 members were arrested. Radical groups Revolutionary Struggle and Popular Revolutionary Action have been blamed for the bombings of three government ministries in 2005. In 2003, a special court gave multiple life sentences to November 17's leader, chief assassin and three other members. Lesser sentences were given to 10 others.