Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Massive blast marks new departure in Greek terrorism

A massive bomb exploded outside the Athens stock exchange at 5:35am local time on Wednesday. About half an hour earlier a telephone call was placed to Eleftherotypia newspaper warning that a van filled with explosives would explode.

All that remains of the van, police say, is an axle. The blast blew out the windows of the multi-storey building and caused damage to neighbouring buildings. A cleaning woman was lightly injured by flying glass 500 yards away. Despite internal damage to the stock exchange offices, the exchange announced it would operate.

There has been no claim of responsibility yet, but a local terrorist organisation called Revolutionary Struggle attempted to blow up a Citibank building in similar fashion in January. On that occasion the intended bomb was a car trunk full of petrol and fertiliser.

The Citibank plot was foiled because a night guard saw Revolutionary Struggle parking the car, went out to talk to them and was told to leave the building because he would be killed. He had the presence of mind to call the police, who defused the bomb.

But from that point on it became clear that Greece was making a qualitative leap in terrorism. The old model of targeted shootings against businessmen and foreign diplomats 17 November had stuck to for 27 years (1975-2002) was over. Greece would sooner or later experience a Timothy McVeigh-style Oklahoma City event. Thanks to a tradition, for want of a better word, of seeking grassroots popularity and not claiming unintended victims, Revolutionary Struggle is at least avoiding Oklahoma City-level casualties. But Once you start planting vans full of explosive on the street, an unintended victim is only a question of time.

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