Authorities in Athens are preparing for a trial set to begin Jan. 17 that will decide the fate of 13 people charged with belonging to an anarchist group that has been active in Greece for the past three years. Their detention has produced an outpouring of support from fellow anarchists that has led to an escalation in rhetoric, attacks and cooperation among anarchist groups across national borders. As the trial draws near, we expect to see more anarchist bombings, shootings and arson attacks in Athens and elsewhere across the rest of the world.
Over the past year, 13 individuals were arrested in Athens and charged with belonging to the Greek anarchist group Conspiracy of Fire Cells, which has been around since 2003 but particularly active throughout Greece since 2008. In the run-up to their trial, scheduled to begin Jan. 17, Europe has seen a flurry of seemingly connected anarchist attacks, all in the name of some or all of the 13 Greek anarchists headed to court. As the trial draws near — and during the trial itself — violence in Athens and elsewhere will likely escalate as anarchist groups try to undermine security and exhaust public support for the proceedings. (click here to enlarge image)
Recent Anarchist Activity
On Dec. 23, anarchists in Italy mailed two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) — packed with shrapnel — to several embassies in Rome, leading to injuries in the Swiss and Chilean embassy mailrooms. Several more identical devices were intercepted at the Danish, Monacan and Greek embassies on Dec. 27. At 2 a.m. the morning of Dec. 30, assailants tossed a small incendiary device (likely a Molotov cocktail) at the Greek Embassy in Buenos Aires, injuring no one and causing minor damage to the embassy's facade. An hour later, an IED placed on a motor scooter detonated outside an Athens courthouse, blowing out windows and turning over nearby vehicles. No one was injured in the Athens attack because a warning call was made 40 minutes before the blast, giving authorities time to clear the area. By Jan. 6, anarchists in Greece and Italy had claimed all three attacks. An Italian group calling itself the "Federation of Informal Anarchists (FAI)-Revolutionary Cell Lambros Fountas" (named after a suspected anarchist killed by police in Athens earlier in 2010) claimed responsibility for the Dec. 23 and Dec. 27 attacks in Rome, stating specifically that it "was sending this new attack to a structure that represents the Greek state and its servants, in solidarity with our comrades arrested in Athens." Two other anonymous claims of responsibility, posted to the anarchist website nostate.net, took credit for the nearly simultaneous attacks on the Athens courthouse and Greek Embassy in Buenos Aires, both dedicating their separate attacks to those facing trial on Jan. 17. Finally, a letter from the FAI-Mauricio Morales cell in Chile endorsed the attacks against the Chilean and Swiss embassies in Rome and stated, "any civil servant of a diplomatic institution … is a potential target of attack." To understand how transnational anarchist networks work, it is important to remember that group names are somewhat irrelevant. Anarchists around the world operate under a number of different monikers, mainly to confuse the authorities and to inflate the perceived size of their movements. Anarchists do not operate within defined and established groups but instead lead a more transient lifestyle, which may bring them into contact with various allies throughout the world. It is also important to note that most attacks carried out by anarchist groups are very rudimentary and cheap (typically consisting of Molotov cocktails or readily available cooking gas canisters rigged as explosives) and require very few resources and collaborators. For example, the November 17 group, whose legacy has been continued by the modern Greek anarchist movement, consisted of about a dozen core members who were able to conduct assassinations and bombings against high-level Greek and other Western diplomatic officials for almost three decades. In the militant anarchist world, smaller operational units mean a lower chance of being found out. The anarchist ideology calls for the destruction of capital and state institutions. The implementation of this ideology can be seen in the anarchist target set. Multinational corporations (MNCs) with global franchises like McDonald's and Mercedes-Benz as well as bank branches and ATMs are routinely targeted, since they are easily accessible and symbolize deep capital pockets. As for state institutions, the most recent attacks show an anarchist affinity for diplomatic targets. In Greece and other countries, the police are also part of the anarchist's target set. In one of the most aggressive attacks in Greece in recent years, anarchists shot and killed a police officer in his car in Athens in June 2009.
The anarchist movement is inherently transnational, given its members' itinerant lifestyles and opposition to state authority, however, it is uncommon to see the outpouring of rhetorical and operational support for the movement that we have seen over the past few weeks. Attacks against targets outside Greece in the name of those charged with anarchy in Greece show that the upcoming Jan. 17 trial has certainly captured the attention of militants around the world. Up to this point, Italian and Argentine groups have conducted attacks in the name of those going on trial, but dozens of other groups around the world have demonstrated the ability to conduct attacks against MNCs and state assets. Among these anarchists are groups in Chile that, in addition to offering rhetorical support to those facing trial in Greece, have also conducted some 100 small-scale attacks against banks, private businesses and government targets across the country in the past five years. (click here to enlarge image) Anarchist groups are also alive, well and operating under a variety of names in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, France and many other countries. While these groups have not, as far as we know, pledged overt support to the 13 individuals facing trial in Athens, they do maintain active operations targeting police stations and prisons in addition to MNCs and government offices. Should these groups also join in the increased level of activity surrounding the Jan. 17 trial, we could see a heightened level of anarchist activity through much of the Western world. It is important to note that most groups active outside Greece pose only a low-level threat. While Greek anarchists have progressed in their tradecraft, constructing larger, more sophisticated IEDs and striking at more sensitive targets, we have not seen the same level of progression in other anarchist groups around the world. Therefore, increased anarchist activity outside of Greece likely means low-order explosive devices, such as cooking gas canisters and homemade fuel-based bombs, that typically cause superficial property damage. Most anarchist attacks have specifically avoided harming people, but recent attacks in Italy and Greece, as well as threats from Chile, challenge this trend. Obviously, it is impossible for MNCs and governments to protect every office, franchise and kiosk that they operate in Europe and North and South America. However, due to the recent deployment of letter bombs by anarchists and the distinct risk of more attacks, safeguards can be implemented to protect staff such as mail-screening procedures. Anarchists in Greece and Italy have used medium-sized padded envelopes, yellow in color, to conceal what police describe as videocassette-shaped explosive devices and mailed them to embassies. They have also used local couriers to deliver parcel bombs to embassies. Suspicious packages would be those without return addresses, those with too much postage or those delivered by unfamiliar couriers.