Greek police detonate French Embassy package

Thursday, November 4, 2010

ATHENS - Bomb experts in Athens Thursday detonated a suspicious package addressed to the French Embassy, amid a wave of mail bombings that have targeted diplomatic institutions in the Greek capital and European leaders, reports said.

Police also detected another three suspicious packages at a courier company in the Athens suburb of Markopoulo.

Officials said the package addressed to the French Embassy had been returned to the courier company. The controlled explosion took place outside the delivery firm, with police cutting off traffic in the surrounding area in central Athens.

Reports said the package contained explosives and had the sender listed as the Archbishop of Athens. Officials said the parcel was similar to the booby-trapped packages that have been making headlines since Monday.

Police have arrested two suspected members of a left-wing militant group in connection with the attacks, which have involved 14 explosive parcels - including one that reached the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

Other intended recipients have included French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the Europol police headquarters in the Netherlands, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, and a slew of foreign embassies in Athens.

Greek police are searching for five other suspects linked to the militant group Fire Conspiracy Cells, which has staged several attacks against government buildings and police over the past year.

German police were in Athens Thursday to aid the investigation, as Greece continued a 48-hour embargo on all overseas air shipments. Thousands of packages were being screened.

The mail-bombing spree has caused no fatalities, but a female worker at a courier firm in Athens was injured when the first of the packages exploded in her hands.

Greek police believe the parcels are all the work of domestic far-left militants or anarchists. The incidents have not been linked to last week’s discovery of explosive packages at airports in Britain and Dubai, which had originated in Yemen.

However, the spate of attempted attacks have highlighted security loopholes enabling the transport of explosive material via freight and courier services. The German government has said it will push for tighter security controls for air freight in the European Union.

Greece has been plagued by bomb and gas cannister attacks by far-left and militant groups since the police killing of a teenager in Athens in December 2008, which sparked the worst riots the country has seen in decades.

While lacking in sophistication, Greek security expert Thanasis Drougos said it was the first time that Greek domestic terrorists had managed to reach foreign targets.

“I believe that this was a test to check security and these groups are preparing for something bigger in the future,” he told DPA.

The bomb attacks come ahead of local elections on Sunday in which the ruling Socialists have come under fire for austerity measures agreed with the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Germany was the biggest contributor to the rescue package, but also pushed for deeper budgetary cuts in Greece.

Filed under: Terrorism

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