Reference ID: 09ATHENS318    
Created: 2009-03-16 05:35    
Released: 2011-08-30 01:44  
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL    
Origin: Embassy Athens

Appears in these articles:

DE RUEHTH #0318/01 0750535
O 160535Z MAR 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ATHENS 000318
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/12/2019
     ¶B. ATHENS 248
     ¶C. ATHENS 215
     ¶D. ATHENS 114
Classified By: DCM Deborah McCarthy for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

¶1. (C) New terrorist attacks continue to rock Greece with a
frequency not seen since 2000, unnerving the country's
political and professional elite.  A number of violent
far-left groups -- some previously unknown -- have claimed
responsibility for bombings, shootings, and arson incidents,
and this and the unprecedentedly large scale of some of the
attacks have raised concerns that the new generation of Greek
domestic terrorists is more impulsive and less concerned
about collateral damage than its predecessors.  While no one
has been killed in any of the attacks this year, there is
real concern about a possible attack with mass casualties, a
prospect that has many Greeks worrying about their own
security in a way they have not for over a decade.  End
More Attacks, More Claims of Responsibility

¶2. (SBU) In January and February of this year there were over
70 security incidents (including IED and explosive attacks,
as well as those involving small arms, grenades, and other
infantry-style weaponry) in Greece, roughly equivalent to the
number for each entire year in the 2001-2004 range.  There
were about 140 such incidents in 2005, 280 in 2006, 220 in
2007, and well over 300 in 2008, which included a huge spike
in December during the riots that followed the shooting death
of teenager at the hands of police.  On March 12 the
terrorist group Revolutionary Struggle claimed responsibility
for two of the most notable recent incidents, the bombing of
a Citibank branch in the Nea Ionia suburb of Athens March 10
and the attempted bombing of a Citibank branch in the
Kifissia suburb of Athens February 18 (ref C).  The Kifissia
bomb, if it had been properly formulated and constructed,
could have caused a much greater level of destruction than
the gasoline-based bombs that have been used in other
attacks.  In its statement, Revolutionary Struggle did not
explain this apparent escalation in its tactics, but launched
broadsides against banks for their role in the global
financial crisis, the media, and two-time former Minister and
ruling party politician Savvas Tsitourides, and made
references to the older Greek terrorist organizations
November 17 and ELA, with particular emphasis on ELA.
¶3. (C) Nor are the attacks limited to the relatively
well-established Revolutionary Struggle.  A new group called
Sect of Revolutionaries has issued militant declarations of
responsibility for recent attacks on police and television
stations (ref B).  Multiple organizations have claimed
responsibility for taking over and burning a commuter train
in Kifissia March 3, although the anarchist group Gangs of
Conscience - Perama Extremists appears most likely to be the
responsible party (ref A).  Other groups have gotten into the
act as well with attacks on banks and other targets.
Nervousness among Police and Public

¶4. (C) The police have increased their visible presence in
downtown Athens anarchist hubs like Exarchia, where police
engaged in a raucous battle with anarchist gangs on the night
of March 6-7.  Police reportedly employed a new, more
aggressive approach to security incidents when a large force
responded to a masked gang's attack on two downtown
opticians' shops March 10, but they failed to make any
arrests or to prevent the plundering of the shops.  Indeed,
police have made no arrests in connection with any of the
serious terrorist attacks recently.  The newspaper To Vima
reported March 11 that police were bracing for more terrorist
action and published a "top secret" list of 82 individuals
and facilities that the police considered major terrorist
targets.  Later the same day police chief Tsiatouras placed
four senior officers on administrative leave in connection
with the leaking of the list.
¶5. (C) The expectation of further serious attacks is sinking
in not only with the police and political class, but also
with broader sections of the Greek public, as we have
observed anecdotally.  The Ambassador recently attended an
event organized by Greek alumni of Harvard and Georgetown --
mostly upper-middle-class professionals not involved in
politics -- and found them genuinely concerned about their
safety, to the extent that they refrained from publicizing
their event out of fear that it might become a target.
Antonis Peratikos and George Momferatos, leading members of
the "Os Edo" organization of family members of November 17
victims, told the Ambassador and DCM March 12 that in the
years following the 2002 arrests of November 17 members,
Greek society grew relaxed about the terrorist threat.  Now,
they said, a successful attack on the scale of the attempted
Kifissia fertilizer bomb could make November 17's murders
look restrained in comparison.  Because of the re-emergence
of the threat, they indicated they were looking into ways to
re-energize their organization and to remind the Greek public
of the true human cost of terrorism.
¶6. (C) A large number of American businesses in Greece are
very concerned about the safety of their personnel,
operations, and buildings due to the increased activity by
anarchist and terrorist groups.  Citibank, Coca-Cola, Nike,
IBM, American Express, and other Overseas Security Advisory
Council (OSAC) members have expressed their frustration
regarding the inability of the police to make any significant
arrests of RS members and their lack of faith in the Greek
judicial system.  An OSAC meeting is scheduled for March 31.

¶7. (C) While anarchist violence has never really stopped in
recent Greek history, it had for several years become a
peripheral concern that most Greeks assumed was confined to
certain downtown neighborhoods in Athens and Thessaloniki and
occasional foreign targets.  This decade has felt nothing
like the heyday of domestic terrorism from the 1970s to
1990s, when ELA alone conducted an estimated 500 bomb
attacks.  The latest surge in terrorist activity has many
Greeks questioning the sense of security that they have taken
for granted for years.  We have already seen reports
suggesting right-wing groups may be emerging to counter
leftist extremists, for example the new ASPIS (Police
Patriotic Power), a group whose founding statement declared
"we won't tolerate violence and crimes" and "we are not
afraid of them and they better be afraid of us!"  Meanwhile,
the growing public fears are matched by genuine concern on
the part of Greek law enforcement officials that the
terrorist groups they have been unable to crack may be
capable of a major deadly attack.