Bombs hit Greek targets ahead of militants’ trial

ATHENS — Bombs exploded Thursday outside Greek targets in Athens and Buenos Aires, causing damage but no injuries nearly two weeks before the trial of Greek anarchists linked to a November parcel bomb campaign against embassies and foreign leaders.

In Athens a powerful device thought to be a time bomb detonated outside an Athens court shortly after police had evacuated the area, acting on warnings delivered by anonymous callers to media, police said.

Some 90 minutes earlier, a firebomb had been thrown at the Greek embassy in the Argentine capital, causing material damage but no injuries, the Greek foreign ministry said in a statement.

“According to initial findings the explosion was caused by a firebomb,” the ministry said. “Embassy staff were not in the building at the time.”

The bomb in the Greek capital smashed windows at the Athens administrative court and at neighbouring buildings, mangling several vehicles parked outside and hurling debris over a wide area, news reports said.

Police had evacuated the area following a phone tipoff that revealed the license plate of a stolen motorcycle carrying the bomb, a police source said.

Another police operation was later staged across the capital in the district of Kallithea following a threatening phonecall at a local tax office but no device had apparently been found.

Earlier Thursday, television footage showed flames and smoke billowing in front of the court in the district of Ambelokipi near the city centre shortly after the device detonated at 8:20 am (0620 GMT).

“My house shook and I saw bright red flames leaping to a height of five metres (16 feet),” a local resident told private Flash radio.

Early information indicated that the device was probably a time bomb containing industrial-grade explosives given the strength of the blast, the police said.

The device was likely a fertiliser bomb consisting of ammonium nitrate, an explosive commonly used by Greek far-left extremist groups.

Television station Alter and left-wing Eleftherotypia daily received warning phonecalls some 40 minutes prior to the attack, the police source said.

The government condemned the incident with spokesman George Petalotis declaring: “Those who attempt such acts will only reap condemnation from society and the state.”

And Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis, who visited the stricken building, told reporters: “Terrorist attacks do not intimidate democracy.”

There was no claim of responsibility for the bombings.

But the incidents come just over a two weeks before the scheduled trial of more than a dozen suspected members of a radical Greek anarchist group, Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei.

Greece’s embassy in Rome had also been targeted Monday in another bombing series attributed to Italian anarchists.

The Athens court targeted on Thursday is responsible for civil cases and will not be handling the January 17 trial of the suspected extremists.

Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei was held responsible for a wave of parcel bombings in November that targeted foreign embassies in Athens and European government leaders, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

At least four of the parcels, which contained gunpowder, ignited and one of them burned the hands of a woman working at a courier company.

Last week, a similar campaign in Rome using stronger explosives injured two people at the embassies of Switzerland and Chile.

The Rome plot was claimed by an Italian anarchist group calling itself the Informal Federation of Anarchy, or FAI under its Italian acronym, which has expressed solidarity with jailed Greek suspected militants.

Another parcel attributed to FAI turned up at the Greek embassy in Rome on Monday but was deactivated before causing injury.

In an apparent link to Greek extremism, a note was found by police after the Chilean embassy blast, claiming the attack on behalf of the “Lambros Fountas Cell” — a reference to a Greek militant shot dead by police in March 2010.

Fountas was a suspected member of another Greek far-left group — Revolutionary Struggle — which had carried out over a dozen attacks including a rocket strike against the American embassy in Athens three years ago.

After his death, police tracked down and arrested six other alleged Revolutionary Struggle members. Their trial is also expected in 2011.

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