Fears of tit-for-tat after Greek extremists slain
Police in Greece believe far-Left terrorists may have been behind the murder of two members of the far-Right Golden Dawn party, raising fears of tit-for-tat warfare between the country's radical factions.
The Greek counter-terrorism squad has taken over the investigation into Friday night's attack, when two assassins on a motorbike opened fire on men outside Golden Dawn's offices in Athens.
Police said they were looking at whether the murders may have been carried out in retaliation for the fatal stabbing of an anti-fascist musician by a supporter of the neo-Nazi party in September, a killing which prompted angry protests across Greece.
Investigators were examining all avenues, but "particularly those that link these events to extremist groups" behind a string of far-Left attacks in recent years on politicians, police, banks and the media. A police official said the shooting, for which no one has so far claimed responsibility, appeared to be a "terrorist attack".
Athens residents gathered at the site of the killings in the suburb of Neo Iraklio and laid flowers as politicians said the country, already mired in a deep financial crisis, was at risk of spiralling street attacks.
"We cannot let this cycle of violence continue," Makis Voridis, a senior member in Antonis Samaras, the prime minister's, New Democracy party, told Greek television. "This must end here."
"Twelve bullets against democracy," Ta Nea, the country's top-selling daily newspaper, wrote on its front page yesterday. "The double cold-blooded murder was a coarse provocation against stability."
As well as Golden Dawn, Greece is home to far-Left and anarchist extremist groups who have claimed responsibility for a series of shootings and bombings in recent years.
In 2009, a police officer was killed by three gunmen in Athens, and in 2010, a prominent investigative journalist, Sokratis Giolas, was shot dead at his home. Both murders were claimed by the Sect of Revolutionaries, a radical Leftist organisation.
Following the death of Mr Giolas, the Sect of Revolutionaries issued a direct threat to the Greek state, pledging to transform the country into "a war zone of revolutionary processes, with arson, sabotage, fierce demonstrations, bomb attacks, armed killings".
"We are at war with your democracy", the group said.
Another extremist group, the Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei, has claimed responsibility for a number of recent attacks, including a car bomb which exploded outside home of a prison director the Athens in June.
Greek media claimed that the weapon used in Friday's attack was the same type of gun used in the 2009 police shooting. Police identified the gun as a Zastava Tokarev-type semi-auto pistol from which 12 rounds were fired, but said it was not the same weapon used in previous terrorist incidents.
Golden Dawn has in recent years emerged from the fringe of Greek politics to establish itself as the country's third most popular party, with 18 seats in parliament.
Its surge in popularity came as it capitalised on widespread anger over austerity measures and immigration in the debt-stricken nation, which has for the past six years been in severe recession. Some 60 per cent of Greek youth are now unemployed.
Friday's attack "marked a continuation of political uncertainty and instability in the country," said George Tzogopoulos, an analyst at an Athens-based think-tank.