- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 27, 2002

ATHENS Greek police struck again yesterday at the crippled November 17 terrorist group and plucked another prized suspect: an unassuming shopkeeper accused of helping found Europe's most elusive urban guerrilla band.
The arrest of 50-year-old Nikos Papanastasiou is hoped to topple another pillar in a group that outwitted authorities during a 27-year reign of bombings, robberies and killings.
It also adds to the surprisingly common face emerging from an organization that carried a reputation for fanatical secrecy and ruthless precision.
Mr. Papanastasiou had run a souvenir shop in central Athens. Another suspected November 17 co-founder and mastermind, 58-year-old Alexandros Giotopoulos, says he worked translating French texts.
Other suspected members caught in a rapid-fire series of raids in the past weeks include a bus driver, a religious-icon painter and an elementary-school teacher.
Yesterday, a hospital telephone operator, Pavlos Serifis, accused of being November 17's second-in-command, told police that Mr. Giotopoulos was the gunman who killed CIA station chief Richard Welch in 1975 the slaying that first brought attention to the group.
Mr. Serifis, 46, admitted being a lookout in the Welch attack, police said. Whether and to what extent Mr. Papanastasiou was involved in the Welch killing were not immediately clear. A 20-year statute of limitations means no one can be directly charged in the deaths of Mr. Welch and others killed before 1982.
Police believe Mr. Papanastasiou and Mr. Giotopoulos helped forge the ultra-left ideology of November 17 during the dying gasps of the 1967-74 military junta in Greece.
Police had never been able to crack the group until a botched bombing attempt June 29. It left an injured man a suspected November 17 operative who began to talk. Suddenly, police were conducting raids around the country.
More than a dozen suspects have been arrested. Authorities have hinted more could come.
But Mr. Giotopoulos and Mr. Papanastasiou are considered the most significant blows so far. Police say the two represent part of the inner circle that has directed and molded November 17 from the earliest days.
Many of the other suspects are accused of being hit men from the so-called "second generation," recruited in the mid-1980s to follow the group's ideological path: hard-line Marxism, Robin Hood-style bravado and irredentist nationalism.
November 17 proclamations often glorified an uncorrupted form of communism and denounced any perceived threats to Greek identity or culture.
One suspected gunman, 42-year-old Patroklos Tselentis, was charged yesterday with taking part in five killings, including that of U.S. defense attache Capt. William Nordeen in June 1988. He is accused of two attempted murders, including an attempt on U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency station chief George Caros in January 1988.

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