APNewsBreak: Greek bombers used hollow books
Thursday, November 4, 2010; 4:27 PM
ATHENS, Greece -- The two young Greeks who allegedly mailed a wave of micro-bombs to embassies and foreign leaders used a simple mix of gunpowder and hollowed-out books to rattle nerves across Europe, according to investigators and court documents seen by The Associated Press.
Pretending to represent Greece's top cleric, the deputy prime minister and the debt-ridden country's finance ministry, a 22-year-old chemistry student and a jobless 24-year-old were allegedly able to send explosive packages as far as German Chancellor Angela Merkel's office.
Nobody was hurt, and only two devices made it out of Greece. Most of the fourteen located by Thursday were addressed to foreign embassies in Athens, with one intended for French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Only two went off where intended, while Greek authorities believe one or two may still be in the mail.
But the campaign exposed flaws in Europe's mail security network and prompted calls for stricter continentwide package screening processes.
Police in central Athens destroyed a package addressed to the French embassy Thursday, using a 48-hour ban on airmail post and courier deliveries abroad - which ends at midnight (2200 GMT, 6 p.m. EDT) - to re-screen thousands of packages. Armed with a small amount of explosives, the name of Archbishop Hieronymos, head of the Greek Orthodox Church, was written as the sender, police said.
Authorities say one of the suspects is believed to belong to a radical anarchist group that has quickly evolved in two years from an annoying source of arson attacks to a full-scale security concern.
Terrorism expert Mary Bossi said the mail bombings could be seen as part of a European trend by anarchist and anti-capitalist groups toward a greater use of violence in a continent still troubled by recession.
"Using the mail to deliver explosives is a very old tactic but here it was used very effectively," Bossi told private Skai television.
Greece has seen a spike in militant attacks - including a deadly letter bombing earlier this year - since riots in 2008 triggered by a police shooting of a teenage boy.
Greek far-left extremists in the 1980s and 1990s killed more than 20 people. Although eradicated over the past decade, the most effective of these groups have inspired several small radical anarchist or nihilist groups violently opposed to capitalism and all forms of state authority.
And despite the arrest of more than a dozen suspected militants over the past year - and their apparent lack of sophistication - these groups have come to dominate domestic political violence.
"They are quite amateur, but very inventive ... their aim was to make this international - and they totally succeeded," Bossi said. "They are hoping Greece will take the lead in this type of action, and motivate other like-minded people."