Domestic terrorism in Greece is not a new phenomenon. However, conditions in the country in a sixth year of recession are explosive and a recent re-emergence of politically motivated terrorism is adding more fuel to political and civic strife.
Most of the groups active now and in the past have variously identified with ideologies of the Left ranging from Marxism to anarchist communism, and insurrectionist anarchism.
However, although the ideological mantle differs little from earlier groups, as gleaned from announcements issued at various times undertaking responsibility for acts, as well as from trials of members, the quality and the characteristics of the acts themselves have changed drastically.
The attack on the ambassadorial residence is not the first such to take place. The residence had also been targeted by the 17 November group, on 19 May 1999, when a bazooka rocket was aimed at the building which it struck, penetrating the roof, but failing to detonate.
Police are looking into the possibility that this attack may be linked to a similar attack against New Democracy offices on 14 January 2013. responsibility for that attack was undertaken by a group calling themselves “Team of Popular Fighters.”
However there seems to be a qualitative and not so subtle change in the modi operandi of the terrorist organizations that emerged after the dismantling of 17 November.
A brief hiatus?
The recent assassination of two Golden Dawn members and the simultaneous attempt at another two, one of which was seriously injured, has opened a new page in the ongoing saga of domestic terrorism.
Domestic terrorism in Greece is not a new phenomenon, but targets in the past were emblematic and had an ideological tinge. Now the aim seems to have shifted to attacking targets by association.
The attack for which a newly emergent urban terrorist group calling itself “Fighting Revolutionary Popular Forces” undertook responsibility, ushers in new operational methodologies. At the same time it spells an end to a period of relative inactivity and dormancy that had followed after the emergence of the crisis.
After the arrest of six EA (Revolutionary Left) members and the confiscation of several large weapons and explosives caches by Greek authorities in April 2010, that group’s operations were largely disrupted. However, two of the group's members, Nikos Maziotis and Paula Roupa, in mid-2012 violated the terms of their release pending trial and disappeared.
Another group, self proclaimed anarchist group SPF (Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei), was crippled after arrests in 2011, following a November 2010 parcel bomb campaign that targeted international leaders and institutions outside Greece.
Finally, the radical leftist SE last appeared in July 2010 after a 13-month hiatus to assassinate journalist Socrates Giolias outside his home, but has failed to appear since then. Any attacks that followed were low-key by comparison to earlier actions.
A series of arrests after a failed armed robbery attempt at the sleepy town of Velvedou, Kozanni yielded a well armed and well orchestrated group of youths that were obviously affiliated with militant leftists.
Assassinations Herald Resurgence?
The murder of Pavlos Fyssas, ant-fascist rapper, at the hands of a Golden Dawn member, was perhaps the catalyst that allowed the true visage of contemporary Greek political terrorism to show.
It is in fact this very incident that the announcement provided by the assassins points to, calling the attack on the hapless GD members “retribution.”
The attack also came at a time when the government and the main opposition were sparring over the “two pole” theory of violent political extremism that premier Antonis Samaras and his close associates were propagating. For main opposition SYRIZA and the KKE, there was no such issue, as political violence was perpetrated, according to them, exclusively by the extreme right, as expressed by Golden Dawn.
This perceived lull in leftist terrorism was an argument used by the parliamentary Left in defending its one pole claim. In hindsight the brief hiatus in leftist violence was to be torn down dramatically, but for those in the know there was no such operational freeze, it was a deception that all forces contributed to.
“It was not a hiatus, but a time to regroup,” says Mary Bossi political science specialist, assistant professor in International Security at the University of Piraeus, adding that, “participation in less visible actions multiplied, while we had announcement on a daily basis on their sites.” For professor Bossi the arrests and the lack of meaningful activity “looked like de-clawing, but were not.”
Indeed, the walls in the leftist dominated neighborhood of Exarhia were plastered with posters of texts. Often in badly written and verbose Greek. At the same time, as Ms. Bossi notes that clashes between GD members and persons affiliated with these anti-systemic groups multiplied, yet went unreported, as did a number of other issues that the mainstream press refused to cover, The silence on the part of the media is another bitter story.
For Ms. Bossi, however, the new terrorism is not ideologically motivated, or not in any clear way, nor can it be called leftist, marxist, or other labels used by groups that were active up until the 1990s. For the terrorism expert, “the name is just a name. The personnel pool is common for these organizations.”