Athens on Edge After Explosion Severely Damages Buildings


Helena Smith, The Guardian, November 25, 2015

A bomb has exploded outside the headquarters of Greece’s business federation, in the first major attack since Alexis Tsipras assumed power in January.

The blast, triggered by a timer attached to the device, did not cause injuries but immediately raised concerns over security in Athens. In a country labouring under its worst economic crisis for decades, security forces fear a barrage of similar incidents may be in the offing.

Mary Bossi, a professor of international security, told the Guardian: “This was a much bigger attack than the low-intensity incidents we have seen in recent months. At a time of such high unemployment, such great anger, it could signal that Greece is in for a turbulent time of violent activity.”

The strength of the explosion, a stone’s throw from the Greek parliament, extensively damaged several buildings including a popular hotel. The Cypriot embassy, housed on the opposite side of the narrow street on which the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises stands, was almost hollowed out, although police ruled out it being the target of the bomb.

Twelve hours after the explosion, forensic scientists were still sifting through shattered glass and picking their way through the debris.

Related: Tsipras savours election win but dark clouds are gathering over Greece

Kyriakos Kenevezos, Cyprus’ ambassador to Athens, told the island’s news agency: “Our embassy absorbed the full impact of the blast. All the exterior windows were blown out and there is incalculable damage to the interior from the ground floor to the sixth floor.”

Police rushed to the scene after two Greek newspapers received warning calls at 3am that a bomb had been placed outside the entrance to the business federation.

Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility, suspicion has been quick to fall on imprisoned anarchists, who recently issued a call to arms in a manifesto posted online.

The proclamation, co-signed by Nikos Romanos, a young anarchist in prison for an armed bank robbery, urged Greeks to ensure a “black December” by taking part in “a month of coordinated actions” against banks, department stores, schools, universities and city halls, “spreading the message of rebellion, [placing] incendiary devices against fascists and bosses”.

“Our proposal is simple,” the manifesto declared. “An action campaign by the name Black December, which will be the detonator for the restart of anarchist insurgency inside and outside the prisons.”

Greece, under military dictatorship from 1967 to 1974, is no stranger to domestic political violence.

Brady Kiesling, the author of Greek Urban Warriors, a recent history of far-left terrorism, said: “This attack belongs in a tradition dating back to the 1970s – bombs against symbolic targets as armed propaganda for a revolution no one knows how to describe anymore.

“I assume its authors are echoing the call by imprisoned anarchist Romanos for a ‘black December’ of violence. The real message, aimed primarily at fellow radicals, is that Syriza’s grace period after the elections has now expired.”

Related: Greece cleared by eurozone fund for €2bn bailout loan

The anarchist and anti-establishment bloc, which has been increasingly visible since Athens’ initial brush with bankruptcy in 2010, was reinvigorated after the police shooting of a teenager, Alexis Grigoropoulos, sparked weeks of street riots in December 2008.

The outburst of violence was widely seen as the prelude to Greece’s economic crisis. Grigoropoulos died in Romanos’s arms, with his friend thereafter vowing to become a mascot for a disaffected Greeks baying for a fight with officialdom. Linking the attack to anger at austerity, Bossi said: “A lot of these people expected the [leftist] Syriza government to be different. They expected the left to be more lenient and that hasn’t been the case.”

Last week, the head of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises heaped praise on the leftist-led government for having the political will to push through reforms set as the price of further bailout funds to keep Greece in the eurozone.

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This article was written by Helena Smith In Athens from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.