Anti-terrorist squad overhauled

Department chief and 11 personnel replaced as government seeks to crack domestic urban guerrilla groups

The head of Greece’s anti-terrorist squad as well as 11 of his colleagues have been replaced as part of sweeping changes in the police force currently being made by the government.

It was revealed yesterday that Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis asked anti-terrorist chief Dimitris Chorianopoulos to step down. He will be replaced by Alkiviadis Tziotis. A further 11 officers are also leaving the department but 14 others have been drafted in, as the government seeks to make headway in its efforts to dismantle the country’s terrorist groups.

Three of the officers being brought in played a significant role in the operation that led to the capture of members of the November 17 terrorist group earlier this decade.

Chrysochoidis’s predecessor, New Democracy deputy Christos Markoyiannakis, said that the only aim of the changes made by PASOK was to “devalue the previous leadership.”

Chrysochoidis has asked the anti-terrorist squad to reopen its N17 case file and look into any possible connections with today’s active urban guerrillas. In the most recent domestic terrorist incident on October 28, gunmen fired almost 100 rounds at a police station in the northeastern Athens suburb of Aghia Paraskevi.

The changes in the anti-terrorist squad came just 24 hours after a new police chief was appointed. Lefteris Economou takes over from Vassilis Tsiatouras, who was sacked following a police operation in the central Athens neighborhood of Exarchia.

In his first public appearance yesterday, the new chief of police acknowledged that the force is facing a tough task. “In this fluid and unpredictable environment in which we live, we have to strengthen the feeling of security among citizens, while not ignoring the fact that there is a section of society that treats us with suspicion,” said Economou.

Also yesterday, Deputy Citizens’ Protection Minister Spyros Vougias defended in Parliament the government’s decision to announce that guard posts would be removed from outside police precincts in the wake of the Aghia Paraskevi attack, in which six people were injured.

Vougias said that electronic surveillance methods would be used instead to secure the safety of the precincts and that the measure would allow up to 2,000 officers to be assigned to other duties.

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