Fri, May 07, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Greeks allay fears of terrorism at Athens Olympics


Security forces searched yesterday for possible witnesses to time-bomb attacks that raised terrorist worries for the Olympic Games and left Greek officials reassessing security plans.

"The planned security measures are dynamic and not static, meaning that they are adjusted every time there is an event," said Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos at a conference on regional affairs.

The triple blasts early on Wednesday caused no injuries, but damaged a police station in the Kalithea suburb. No group or individual claimed responsibility.

Suspicion, however, immediately fell on local groups, including self-styled anarchists and other extremists that frequently carry out firebombings and other attacks against a variety of targets, including police.

Police insisted the attack had no link to the Aug. 13 to Aug. 29 Olympics, but it occurred on the 100-day countdown to the beginning of the games.

The bombing was carried out with sticks of dynamite rigged with alarm clocks that exploded within a half-hour span. The area is not near any key Olympic sites or hotels.

Premier Costas Caramanlis called the bombing "an isolated incident which does not affect whatsoever the safety of the Olympic preparation."

Meanwhile, top anti-terrorist agents questioned possible witnesses and looked into possible links with previous attacks.

In September, similar timed blasts damaged a judicial complex in Athens and injured one police officer. The twin bombings, spaced 20 minutes apart, were claimed by a group calling itself Revolutionary Struggle. No arrests were made.

In February, a group using the names of the Olympic mascots, Phevos and Athena, claimed responsibility for firebombing two Environment Ministry trucks during International Olympic Committee (IOC) meetings in Athens.

A proclamation in March using the name Revolutionary Struggle claimed responsibility for planting a bomb outside an Athens branch office of the US-based Citibank. The bomb, hidden in a backpack, was destroyed by police. Again, no arrests were made.

Greece is spending about US$1.21 billion on security and has enlisted the help of NATO. A seven-nation advisory group, led by the US and Britain, is also helping Athens plan for any possible terrorist threats.

Last week, the IOC said it had taken out a US$170 million insurance policy to protect against the Athens Games being called off because of war, terrorism or natural disasters.

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