Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has condemned the “terrorists” who carried out a parcel bomb attack that killed a top security official in Athens.
While police did not blame any specific group for the attack at the public order Ministry on Thursday evening, much attention has been focused on security at the building which is the heart of police operations in Greece and is supposed to be one of the country’s most heavily guarded sites.
The blast went off in a seventh floor office next to that of Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chryssohoidis. It killed the head of his personal security detachment Georges Vassilakis, 52, and caused serious damage to the building.
‘Heinous terrorist act’
Papandreou told parliament that it was a “terrorist act”, carried out as the country battles a major debt crisis. The Socialist government’s austerity programme has provoked widespread strikes and protests.
“Yesterday we witnessed an incident of blind and inhuman violence,” Papandreou told parliament. “A family man fell victim to a heinous terrorist act.
“The murderers should know that they will fail because they have the state and all of society against them. Our society cannot be terrorised,” the prime minister added.
The public order minister has led a clampdown on extremist left and right wing groups in Greece who have been blamed for previous bomb attacks in Athens.
Chryssohoidis was just a few metres away when the bomb went off killing Vassilakis, who had been a close associate for the past decade.
Security at the ministry was closely scrutinised by media and experts after the attack.
“It is nearly impossible for someone carrying a bomb to get into the ministry, but to get a packet in is easier,” said police union official Vassilisi Doumas, speaking on Flash radio.
He said it was possible the bomb was carried into the building by a member of staff, a possibility also raised by Greek media.
A police spokesman Thanassis Kokkalakis also said there could have been “negligence” by the building’s security. He told Sky radio there was no specialist bomb detecting equipment at the entrance.
Kokkalakis said he “could not believe” there had been internal help with the attack.
A police source said there are two security checks at the ministry entrance.
The interior minister was clearly in shock when he paid tribute to his assassinated staff member after the attack.
“We are not afraid, we will continue to fight,” Chryssohoidis told journalists at the ministry’s entrance. “Personally, I have lost a precious and dear colleague.”
Chryssohoidis was in the same post when the November 17 militant group was broken up in 2002. It had been blamed for about 20 assassinations since 1975.
He had vowed to reform a police force often accused of lacking professionalism and was given credit for the detention of six alleged leaders of the Revolutionary Struggle group in April.
Greece has a history of attacks by extreme left and right wing groups, but police said the investigation was only starting and no particular group was suspected for Thursday’s attack.