Shots at German envoy's Athens home
Published 30/12/2013 | 09:02
The home of Germany's ambassador to Athens was sprayed with gunfire in a suspected terrorist attack that prompted both governments to declare it would not strain ties between bailed-out Greece and its leading lender.
No one was hurt in the pre-dawn attack when gunmen riddled the official residence of ambassador Wolfgang Dold with bullets from two AK-47 assault rifles. Police said they had recovered more than 60 bullet casings.
The Greek government called the shooting a "cowardly terrorist action" aimed at hurting the country's image before it takes over the presidency of the 28-nation European Union and seeks a major debt relief deal with eurozone creditors.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred on a busy road in the Halandri area north of the capital.
Six people were briefly detained for questioning and released without charge while investigators examined video from surveillance cameras as well as a stolen car found near the scene, police said. Police cordoned off a large area and forensic officers in white coveralls placed evidence markers in the street.
As Greece's biggest bailout lender, Germany is often the subject of strong criticism in the country. Greece is suffering through a sixth year of recession and austerity measures imposed as a condition of its rescue loans.
Mr Dold, a 55-year-old with three children, thanked the government for the police's "swift response".
"To those responsible for this action, I state it will not affect the close and friendly relations between our two countries and it will not reverse the country's economic recovery," he said in a statement.
Police would not comment on the damage or Mr Dold's whereabouts during the shooting.
Foreign diplomats in Greece were repeatedly targeted by far-left terrorist groups since the mid-1970s, but such attacks have been rare since a police crackdown on radical militants more than a decade ago.
The same building had been targeted in 1999 by an improvised rocket launcher. That attack also resulted in no injuries and was claimed by the November 17 terrorist group.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras telephoned German chancellor Angela Merkel as well as the German ambassador following the attack. The government said it was meant to tarnish the country's reputation during its January 1-June 30 presidency of the EU.
"The Greek government expresses its outrage and outright condemnation of today's cowardly terrorist action which had the only apparent objective of (damaging) Greece's image abroad ... The perpetrators will soon be brought to justice," a foreign ministry statement said.
The comments were echoed in Berlin.
"This is a clear signal that the bond between Germany and Greece cannot be damaged by such an attack," said a spokesman for Mrs Merkel.
Despite receiving bailout loans that will total 240 billion euro (£200 billion), poverty has soared in Greece since the 2010 bailout. The country's national debt is still considered unsustainable due to the badly weakened economy.
Eurozone countries have promised to consider new debt relief measures later this year.