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Apr 16, 2010 | 20:10 GMT

5 mins read

Greece: New Evidence and Possible Future Unrest

AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS
Summary
Greek police on April 15 revealed evidence found April 11-12 during a series of raids and arrests against suspected Revolutionary Struggle (EA) members. This is the first series of EA arrests in the group's nearly seven years of activity. It remains to be seen what impact these raids will have on future militant attacks, and police risk immediate retaliation from other groups that have expressed opposition to the arrests.
Greek Police Chief Lefteris Oikonomou said April 15 that police had uncovered several pieces of evidence in April 11-12 raids on six suspected members of the militant group Revolutionary Struggle (EA). Oikonomou said police found a hard drive in vehicles belonging to one of the suspects that contained electronic files claiming responsibility for a 2007 rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy in Athens, as well as other attacks between 2003 and 2009. Oikonomou said police also found a list of notes on the security arrangements of journalists, businessmen and politicians, including the structure of their protective security details and specifications on the security features of their vehicles. Further evidence included a list of companies that use explosives in their business, handwritten notes of past and potential future attacks, two Zastava handguns, ammunition and 120,000 euros (about $162,000) in cash. These are the first arrests of suspected EA members since the group's emergence. EA has been responsible for a number of attacks dating back to its formation in 2003, including a 2006 assassination attempt on Greek Culture Minister Georgios Voulgarakis, the 2007 U.S. Embassy attack, a 2009 detonation of a vehicle packed with explosives in front of the Athens stock exchange and numerous other improvised explosive device (IED) attacks on bank branches throughout Athens. EA's anti-democracy and anti-western ideology, as well as its tactics, have been compared to November 17 (N-17), the group responsible for the death of CIA Station Chief Richard Welch in 1975. After 27 years of operation, N-17 was eventually wrapped up in a series of arrests by Greek police in 2002. EA emerged the next year, raising the possibility of a connection between the two groups. Judging by the evidence released by Greek police, it appears the six arrested individuals were at least somewhat involved in the operations. The evidence also reveals some operational tactics used by the group: For example, the list of stores that sell explosive material could indicate the group was purchasing (or possibly stealing to avoid leaving a trail) the explosives used in their attacks, rather than getting them from the military or making them themselves. Moreover, the notes on the security specifications and potential business and political targets match with what STRATFOR had forecast as potential future targets. N-17 regularly attacked its targets while in transit, approaching vehicles on motorcycle and killing the targets in traffic or as they left or entered the vehicle. Collecting information on the security specifications of potential targets in order to ostensibly carry out assassinations not only indicates that EA was pulling from N-17's playbook, but was also conducting surveillance on those targets — indications that the group was progressing along the attack cycle. The arrests came after police shot and killed another militant suspect, Lambros Fountas, in Athens as he was attempting to steal a car March 11. Fountas was not believed to be a member of EA, but an accomplice who evaded police in the ensuing chase is suspected of EA affiliation. The two men may have been stealing the car to carry out another attack involving an IED concealed in a vehicle. Police searched Fountas' apartment after the shooting, during which time they may have uncovered information that led them to make the April 11 arrests. It remains unclear what kind of impact this will have on militant activity in Greece. The operational tempo and intensity of attacks carried out by EA could certainly be the work of a small cell (N-17 was comprised of less than a dozen members), so this could have a significant impact on EA's operations. However, EA is not alone on the militant front in Greece; there are many other (less capable) groups and individuals who have proven to be disruptive through violent protests (such as those that erupted in December 2008 after police shot and killed a young boy) and small-scale vandal attacks against car dealerships, foreign diplomats and multinational corporations. These groups will certainly continue their activity. The arrests may in fact give Greek militant groups a rallying point to increase their anti-government activities. As police raided one of the properties April 11, a group of approximately 60 masked youths threw stones and set fire to garbage containers. Police eventually fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. Then on April 12, as the six suspects were being brought to the courthouse to be charged, a group of protesters assembled outside the building and scuffled with police before being dispersed by pepper spray. The response triggered a call for solidarity among anarchist groups, and given these groups' ability to carry out violence, such rhetoric should be taken seriously. Similar gatherings are expected to continue as long as the six suspected EA militants are being held. The more time that passes, the more time militants have to plan and orchestrate larger acts of violence. Should the individuals be brought to trial, the proceedings would provide a near daily venue for protesters to air their grievances — likely violently — against the government in a very public setting widely covered by the media. All of these developments come as the Greek government is under increasing pressure in implementing unpopular austerity measures stemming from its current economic problems. These measures will affect a large, currently non-radicalized segment of the population. The government is certainly not interested in dealing with ongoing protests and potential riots stemming from these arrests. Given the tenuous domestic situation, a repeat of the December 2008 unrest could be disastrous.

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