ATHENS, Greece – Small mail bombs exploded outside the Russian and Swiss embassies in Athens Tuesday and police destroyed at least three other packages as they tried to halt a wave of attacks blamed on far-left domestic extremists.
Police closed down sections of Athens that host embassies, and checked dozens of potential targets including the German and Panamanian embassies.
The wave of attacks began Monday when a mail bomb addressed to the Mexican embassy exploded at a delivery service in central Athens, lightly wounding one worker.
Authorities searched surrounding streets and arrested two suspects shortly after the blast. They were carrying mail bombs addressed to Sarkozy and the Belgian Embassy, along with handguns and bullets in waist pouches. One wore body armor, a wig and a baseball cap
Police detonated the bombs along with a fourth device found at a delivery company and addressed to the Dutch Embassy.
One of the men was wanted in connection with an investigation into a radical anarchist group known as Conspiracy Nuclei of Fire, which has claimed responsibility for a spate of small bomb and arson attacks over the past two years.
The explosions began again Tuesday with the detonation of a bomb in the courtyard outside a six-story building that’s home to the Swiss Embassy. Soon after, a courier heading for another embassy became suspicious about a package and stopped at Parliament, where police on guard duty detonated a bomb.
Police then found explosive devices at the Bulgarian Embassy and a central Athens courier company and set them off in controlled explosions.
A fifth bomb went off on the ground of the Russian Embassy.
None of the bombs were powerful, and no link was made with the recently discovered Yemen-based mail bomb plot.
The attacks by radical left-wing and anarchist groups, which have killed three people, surged after the December 2008 fatal shooting by police of an Athens teenager, which led to days of rioting throughout Greece.
Much of the unrest harks back to the sharp postwar divide between right and left, which led to a civil war and a seven-year military dictatorship. Although a student uprising succeeded in ending military rule in 1974, there are still tensions between Greece’s security establishment and a phalanx of deeply entrenched leftist groups that often protest against globalization and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere.
“The government condemns in the strongest possible way those who try in vain to terrorize and disturb the public tranquility,” government spokesman George Petalotis said. “The police’s reaction was excellent, resulting in the arrest of two suspects, and their work will continue in a vigorous manner.”
Both suspects were due to appear before an Athens prosecutor later Tuesday.
Police believe the parcels that went off Tuesday were posted the day before.
Parliament speaker Philippos Petsalnikos also condemned what he called “wretched actions.”
“No one can terrorize democracy,” he said.