- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2007

ATHENS — An anti-tank rocket slammed into the U.S. Embassy yesterday, causing limited damage and no injuries but reviving fears of a resurgence of far-left Greek militant groups that carried out deadly attacks over three decades.

The shoulder-fired rocket narrowly missed a large blue-and-white U.S. seal on the embassy’s facade and damaged a third-floor bathroom near the ambassador’s office.

U.S. Ambassador Charles Ries called the attack “very serious.” He said no warning had been given.

“There can be no justification for such a senseless act of violence,” he told reporters outside the cordoned-off embassy, which officials closed for the day. “The good news is no one was hurt and [there was] minimal damage.”

Greek authorities blamed domestic militant groups that have carried out bombings against police and government buildings despite a crackdown on terrorism before the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Police are examining the authenticity of two calls taking responsibility from the group Revolutionary Struggle, which has carried out six bombings since 2003. The shadowy group criticized the United States in past statements, citing treatment of prisoners at the U.S. military detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“It is very likely that this is the work of a domestic group,” Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras said. “We believe this effort to revive terrorism is deplorable and will not succeed.”

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States saw no early signs of international involvement. The Pentagon received a report on the attack, but no request for any action, a U.S. military official said.

The blast shortly before 6 a.m. shattered windows in nearby buildings. Traffic in the downtown area came to a standstill for three hours as police blocked streets around the building to gather evidence — dusting cars for fingerprints and gathering discarded chewing gum and cigarette butts from the street.

The government said it was seeking permission from the courts to view video from traffic cameras, which under Greek privacy laws is officially excluded from the police investigation.

The attack resembled methods used by members of the far-left terrorist group called November 17, which eluded police between 1975 and eventual capture and conviction in 2003.

But the type of weapon used has not been seen in previous Greek attacks: a 2.36-inch rocket, which police said was probably fired from an extendable Russian-made launcher.

Public opposition to U.S. policies has remained strong in Greece since Washington provided support for a 1967-to-1974 military dictatorship.

Government and opposition party officials strongly condemned the attack, the third against the U.S. Embassy since the mid-1970s.

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis went to the scene, where she expressed “the solidarity of the Greek people following this deplorable action.” State television said she wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and promised full cooperation in finding the attacker.

Greece’s conservative government came under criticism over the attack.

“How is such an attack on the American Embassy possible, when the site is the No. 1 target in the country?” said Alekos Papadopoulos, spokesman for public order of the opposition Socialist Party. “This points to problems with the police’s capabilities.”

A police task force to investigate the attack will be headed by a former counterterrorism chief who eradicated the November 17 group.

November 17 carried out a similar rocket attack on the embassy in 1996 — causing minor damage and no injuries. It also bombed buses carrying U.S. servicemen and assassinated four U.S. military and embassy officials. In all, the group was blamed for killing 23 persons.

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