- The Washington Times - Friday, July 19, 2002

ATHENS Greek police announced a major breakthrough yesterday against the elusive November 17 terror organization, saying the radical leftist group's ideologist was in custody and three members confessed to the assassinations of U.S. and British military attaches and other killings.
In the first arrests of November 17 members after the rabidly anti-American group had operated with impunity for more than a quarter of a century, police said its Paris-born chief theoretician, Alexandros Giotopoulos, was among seven group members in jail. He was taken off a hydrofoil Wednesday leaving the eastern Aegean island of Lipsi where he had a vacation home.
Police Chief Fotis Nassiakos told a nationally televised news conference that three of the suspects were brothers the sons of a Greek Orthodox priest who served November 17 as executioners.
The breakthrough marked the first significant crack in the case since the group first appeared in 1975 with the assassination of Richard Welch, the CIA's station chief in Athens.
It came as Greece prepared to host the 2004 Olympics, where November 17 was seen as a major security threat.
"This will clear a cloud that has been hanging over Greece. This is a very great success for Greece and the government," said Deputy Foreign Minister Yannis Magriotis.
Police began cracking down when Savas Xiros, a 40-year-old religious icon painter and one of 11 children of the priest, was severely injured on June 29 when a bomb he purportedly was carrying exploded. He remains under guard in a hospital.
His injury and the release of his picture produced clues leading to raids against two November 17 hide-outs, where police found the group's weaponry. Mr. Giotopoulos' fingerprints matched those found in a hide-out. Authorities have identified one of the handguns found there as the weapon used to kill seven November 17 victims.
While in the hospital, Savvas Xiros was visited by several of his 10 siblings. Two brothers, who were later arrested by police, have confessed to participating in several of the group's attacks.
Christodoulos Xiros, a 44-year-old musical instrument maker, was arrested at his brother's bedside. The other, 30-year-old mechanic Vassilis Xiros, was snatched at the family home in the northern port of Thessaloniki along with the third suspect, high school friend Dionissis Georgiakis, 26.
Police said they also were holding two other November 17 suspects, Vassilis Tzortzatos and Theodoros Psaradelis.
November 17 has claimed responsibility for 23 killings and dozens of bomb and rocket attacks starting with Mr. Welch's assassination. Its last victim was British defense attache Brig. Stephen Saunders, who was killed in June 2000.
November 17, which police estimate has fewer than a dozen members, was believed to have targeted Americans and their allies because of Washington's perceived backing of the Greek military dictatorship, which ruled from 1967 to 1974.

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