- The Washington Times - Friday, July 5, 2002

ATHENS A church icon painter arrested after purportedly trying to blow up a tourist port is a suspected member of one of Europe's most elusive terrorist groups, Greek police said yesterday after seizing most of the November 17 group's weaponry.
Those two developments are the first major breakthroughs against the group in nearly three decades.
The injured suspect, identified as Savas Xiros, 40, would be the first detained member of November 17, a group that Greek, British and American authorities have spent years pursuing.
The weapons including bazookas and anti-tank rockets and a November 17 declaration were found during a Wednesday raid of an apartment rented by Mr. Xiros under an assumed name about eight years ago, authorities said.
"From the continuing investigation and from information we uncovered, we were led to a hide-out of the November 17 terrorist group," Police Chief Fotis Nassiakos said.
The rabidly anti-American group had claimed responsibility for the deaths of 22 persons, including four U.S. officials, since it first appeared with the 1975 killing of the CIA's station chief in Athens, Richard Welch. Its last victim was British military attache Brig. Stephen Saunders, who was shot to death in June 2000.
Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis said police "made significant steps" and were pressing their investigation "because we want the blow against terrorism to be crushing."
Greece for years has been criticized for its inability to crack down on terrorism and has been pressured to do so ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympics.
November 17 is on the State Department's terrorism list. In its annual report to Congress last month, the State Department said Greece's failure to arrest members of November 17 was "troubling."
Chief Nassiakos said Mr. Xiros' fingerprint matched one found in a vehicle used in the 1997 killing of Greek-British shipowner Costas Peratikos in the port of Piraeus. Mr. Xiros was in the same port Saturday when a bomb he was carrying detonated.
Authorities said a gun found near Mr. Xiros was stolen from a police officer during a 1984 robbery blamed on November 17.
Mr. Xiros' injury and clues found nearby led police to a ground-floor apartment in Athens' residential Kato Patisia district on Wednesday.
Chief Nassiakos said police found November 17 declarations, a flag and stamp with the group's logo, a computer, explosives, automatic weapons, two bazookas, anti-tank rockets and a .38 caliber-revolver in the apartment.
A key item still missing is the group's signature weapon, a .45-caliber pistol used in the first and several subsequent November 17 assassinations.
Two more raids in seaside resorts outside Athens uncovered a typewriter used by November 17 to write past claims of responsibility, said police sources and local media.
Mr. Xiros' botched bombing attempt gave police their first solid lead into November 17. He remained under heavy guard in an Athens hospital yesterday.
Explosives specialists defused another bomb, but still had no clues about Mr. Xiros' intended target in the busy tourist port.
November 17 blends extreme left-wing politics with nationalism, and is named for the date of a 1973 student uprising against the military dictatorship.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide