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Cablegate: Greek Security Incidents at 20-Year High -- Police yet To

VZCZCXRO7046
OO RUEHAG RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHTH #0119/01 0491813
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O R 181809Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY ATHENS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1552
INFO EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ATHENS 000119

SIPDIS
AMEMBASSY ANKARA PASS TO AMCONSUL ADANA
AMEMBASSY ASTANA PASS TO AMCONSUL ALMATY
AMEMBASSY BERLIN PASS TO AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF
AMEMBASSY BERLIN PASS TO AMCONSUL LEIPZIG
AMEMBASSY BELGRADE PASS TO AMEMBASSY PODGORICA
AMEMBASSY HELSINKI PASS TO AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG
AMEMBASSY ATHENS PASS TO AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI
AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PASS TO AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK
AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PASS TO AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/18
TAGS: PTER PGOV ASEC ABLD GR
SUBJECT: GREEK SECURITY INCIDENTS AT 20-YEAR HIGH -- POLICE YET TO
ROLL UP TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS

REF: ATHENS 27; 09 ATHENS 1679; 09 ATHENS 1519; 09 ATHENS 2130
09 ATHENS 1972; ATHENS 30

CLASSIFIED BY: Deborah McCarthy, Charge; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (SBU) Greece has seen a steep increase over the past ten years
in security incidents related to domestic terrorists, extremists,
and anarchists. This increase has been especially dramatic in
recent years. The Embassy recorded over 430 security incidents in
2009, defined to include incendiary and explosive attacks, as well
as attacks involving small arms, grenades, and other infantry-style
weaponry. This was far more than recorded in any of the previous
twenty years, and nearly triple the total in 2000. It surpassed
the previous record of 310, set the year before in 2008.

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2. (SBU) The increase in the number of attacks has been accompanied
by the use of more powerful bombs and bolder tactics in major
attacks. In recent months we have seen the explosion of a powerful
bomb outside the headquarters of the National Insurance Corporation
in central Athens December 27, 2009, and the January 9, 2010, blast
outside Parliament which, although smaller in size, attracted major
Greek and international attention because of its prominent location
(ref A). The Conspiracy of Cells of Fire and the Guerilla Group of
Terrorists - two groups previously known for smaller and less
visible attacks - issued joint statements claiming responsibility
for both attacks. On February 16, a small explosive device
detonated outside the office building housing the Athens office of
J.P. Morgan bankers in the Kolonaki neighborhood of Athens. No
group has yet claimed responsibility.

3. (SBU) Minister of Citizens Protection Michalis Chrysochoides,
who came into office with the new Papandreou government in October
2009, appears to have had some success in preventing the major
violence that many expected on key anniversaries November 17 and
December 6. He has also instituted a large police show of force in
anarchist strongholds in central Athens. But the police cannot be
everywhere at once, and the rise of security incidents has been a
major topic in the Greek press. The police have not been
successful in rolling up any of the major terrorist organizations.
Police arrested four alleged members of the Conspiracy of Cells of
Fire in a September 23, 2009, raid on a house in the Halandri
section of Athens, and continue to hold three of them in custody:
Charilaos Hatzimihelakis, Emmanuel Yospas, and Panayotis Masouras
(ref C). The fourth suspect arrested, Myrto Panteloglou, was given
supervised release, as was another woman arrested in the case on
November 14, Antigone Heliotis-Hadjidimitrou, who was suspected of
being friends with one of those in jail. Police arrested another
suspect, 26-year-old university student NIkolaos Bakovassilis, on
January 2, 2010; he was granted supervised release several days
later. On February 1, 2010, police arrested a 21-year-old not
named in the media, who police say was a friend of Masouras and
whose fingerprints were found in the Halandri safehouse. In
addition, prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for the following
individuals in connection with the investigation: Georgios
Nikolopoulos, Michalis Nikolopoulos (brother of Georgios), Damiano
Bolano, Georgios Karayannides, Konstantina Karatkatsanis, and Eleni
Kontopoulou. (See refs D-F for post's Visas Viper information on
suspected members of Conspiracy of Cells of Fire.) The arrests
thus far do not appear to have prevented the group - or perhaps
other individuals using the group's name - from increasing its
attacks.

4. (C) Comment: Combined with the acute economic crisis, which has
produced public demonstrations in response to the GoG's planned
austerity measures, and a rising crime rate, the increasing
activity of domestic terrorist groups has contributed to a public
sense of insecurity. Chrysochoides has publicly thrown down the
gauntlet to violent extremist groups - as well as to the organized
crime organizations to which he believes many are connected - but
he has not yet been able to bring charges against major figures or
to prevent further attacks. Much of the problem can be traced to
capacity gaps in law enforcement and to a defendant-friendly
judicial system. With the dismissal of the cases against the
People's Revolutionary Struggle (ELA) defendants in December (ref
B), the only members of the older generation of Greek domestic
terrorists still behind bars are a portion of the November 17
convicts arrested in 2002. The new generation of terrorists is
becoming more proficient at larger and more frequent attacks. In
the face of continued weak government action, security incidents
will continue to rise.
MCCARTHY

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