Shots fired at New Democracy Athens HQ

Tue, Jan 15, 2013, 00:00

Unidentified gunmen opened fire yesterday on the headquarters of Greece’s conservative party, which is led by Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras, in the latest in a series of politically motivated attacks that have fuelled a war of words between the government and leftist Syriza, the country’s main opposition.

The attack took place at about 3am, when “unknown perpetrators” opened fire on the modern office building, using a Kalashnikov AK47 assault rifle, police said.

No one was in the large building, located on a busy thoroughfare about 6km from the city centre, at the time. One bullet smashed a window in Mr Samaras’s third-floor office before hitting a ceiling, then a wall and landing on the floor. Since becoming prime minister in June, Mr Samaras has only used the office rarely.

Another bullet was found on the roof of the premises, while a total of nine bullet casings were found in a side street, police added.

Police say that at least two perpetrators, who are believed to have made their escape in a stolen car that was later found burnt-out, were involved.

Yesterday’s incident follows a spate of violent attacks over the weekend, which many observers suggest is related to a recent police crackdown on long-established anarchist squats in the centre of Athens.

Squat cleared

In December, police cleared a 22-year-old squat in an old school called Villa Amalias. Last week, they arrested 92 people who tried to reoccupy the condemned building. The government said that the squatted buildings were being used by violent street demonstrators as a base for their operations, an accusation countered by the Villa Amalias squatters who said it is an “open political, cultural and social space, as well as a housing collective”.

On Friday, the homes of five journalists were targeted when assailants planted home-made gas-canister bombs outside them. Then, late on Saturday, the central Athens home of the government spokesman’s brother, who was inside with his wife and young daughter, was petrol-bombed.

No one was injured in the weekend attacks but they have fuelled tensions and increased the polarisation between the government and the opposition, with government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou accusing Syriza of “supporting acts of violence and lawlessness” by not condemning them.

But Syriza yesterday denounced the attack on the New Democracy party’s building as a “dangerous escalation in blind, dead-end terrorist violence”. “Such actions are a distraction to the pressing problems of the present, sow fear and cultivate a climate of generalised terror and repression,” the party said in a statement.

Some observers point out that, regardless of what led to the spate of attacks, they have served to distract attention away from a brewing scandal over the previous socialist government’s failure to act on the so-called Lagarde list of potential tax evaders with large bank deposits in Switzerland.

“Ten days ago, the whole country was talking about the Lagarde list and now we are talking about violence,” said Dimitris Christopoulos, a professor of political science at the Panteion University in Athens.