More than a dozen packages containing explosive devices detonated, were destroyed or were intercepted by police in Athens over the past two days. More packages continue to appear, including one reportedly received by the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel that had the Greek Finance Ministry listed as the return address; that package tested positive for explosive material. Greek anarchists, who have shown an interest in attacking foreign diplomatic targets
before, most likely carried out the attacks. Despite the timing, there is no indication of any link to the devices sent to the United States from Yemen
. The string of attacks began the morning of Nov. 1 when an employee at a mail courier office in Athens attempted to isolate a suspicious package addressed to the Mexican Embassy in Athens. The device exploded when she dropped it, injuring her hands. The employee was able to identify the man who mailed the package, saying he had come in the week before to inquire about shipping rates, indicating the attacks had been in the works prior to the revelations of improvised explosive devices (IED) concealed in packages sent from Yemen on Oct. 28. Police arrested the suspect along with a male companion a short time later. The men had three packages containing explosive devices in their possession addressed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy's office in Paris and the Belgian and Dutch embassies in Athens. Both men were carrying loaded handguns at the time of their arrest. Two women associated with the plot also were arrested, though the nature of their involvement remains unclear. Police knew both men, a 22-year-old and a 24-year-old, but their identities were not released, most likely due to ongoing investigations. The 22-year-old was wanted for placing an IED on a public bus in Athens three years ago on behalf of the anarchist group Conspiracy of Fire. Police knowledge of the suspects may have expedited their arrest and the interception of the other three packages. Even so, police only managed to intercept a fraction of the devices involved. Nine more devices were discovered across Athens on Nov. 2 at the time of this publication, indicating that certainly more packages and possibly more suspects were involved in the plot. One package was hand-delivered to the Swiss Embassy, where it appears the package was isolated thanks to security protocols; while it did ignite, no injuries occurred. Another device was thrown at the Russian Embassy, where it detonated on impact but did not injure anyone. Police discovered and destroyed five other suspicious packages addressed to the Bulgarian (two), Chilean (two) and German (one) embassies. The building housing the Portuguese and Norwegian embassies was evacuated due to the discovery of a suspicious package, most likely linked to the others. One of the devices addressed to the Chilean Embassy was discovered outside the Greek Parliament, where a Greek anarchist group called Fire Conspiracy Cells planted an IED in January
that detonated shortly after a local newspaper received an anonymous phone warning regarding the device. Fire Conspiracy Cells and Conspiracy of Fire appear to be the same group. The devices appear to be made of low-order explosives, such as gunpowder, in low-pressure containers. That the Swiss Embassy device caught fire indicates that it was not under enough pressure to explode. Greek anarchist groups have used similar devices in the past
and have proved their ability to construct larger, more powerful explosive devices such as the one that detonated in front of the Athens Stock Exchange in September 2009
. Earlier this year, on June 24, an employee at the Ministry of Public Security in Athens was killed
when he opened a larger but still similar package containing an explosive device. That incident could have been a proof of concept for the Conspiracy of Fire. However, the attacks over the past two days have not proved nearly as deadly. Targeting foreign leaders like Merkel and Sarkozy represents a change in Greek anarchists' modus operandi. As mail security protocol has been increased at high-profile locations around the world, like governments and business centers, the rudimentary parcels discovered Nov. 1-2 are unlikely to succeed. It appears that the Conspiracy of Fire has sought quantity over quality in this round of attacks, and we will likely see more reports of suspicious packages turning up across Europe and perhaps elsewhere in the world. The latest string of attempts also stands out for its relative aggression: Greek anarchist groups previously largely sought to reduce death and injury by calling attacks in ahead of time. This change in tactics could mean the Conspiracy of Fire and other Greek anarchist groups will have a greater body count in the future.