by Aggelos Skordas
Two armed individuals opened fire at 8pm local time on Monday, against the riot police squad stationed outside opposition party PASOK central offices on Charilaou Trikoupi Street in Athens’ downtown district of Exarcheia. From the attack there were no injuries despite the fact that when it occurred more than 30 people were inside the political party headquarters. The wider area has been sealed off by police forces, as Counter Terrorism officers along with a team from the Directorate for Criminal Investigations are collecting evidence and CCTV footage from nearby businesses that could lead to the assailants.
According to eye witnesses, the gunmen fired three to five bullets from a speeding motorbike near the junction of Zoodochou Pigis and Andrea Metaxa Streets. Initial reports say that the attackers targeted one of the police guards using an assault rifle, probably a Kalashnikov AK-47, and their intention was to kill. As police officials state, it was purely a matter of luck that there have been no casualties, as one of the bullets hit a wall inches from the police guards.
PASOK spokesperson Pavlos Christidis described the dramatic moments after the attack: “We heard shots, there were around 30 to 40 people in the building. We have unfortunately experienced attacks before, here. We have incidents and events every week, and at some point they must be stopped. We were lucky no lives have been lost so far in Charilaou Trikoupi.” At the same time, the party leader Fofi Genimata underlined that this is not the first time PASOK is being targeted and that action needs to be taken immediately, declaring that the party and its members will not be forced out of its historic headquarters in Exarcheia. She added that her previous repeated appeals for protection have been ignored by the present government.
In a written statement Alternate Citizens’ Protection and Public Order Minister Nikos Toskas, who hastily left Crete along with Hellenic Police Chief Lieutenant General Konstantinos Tsouvalas, where they were attending a police event, declared that the Greek government will show zero tolerance to “anyone putting the lives of police officers and citizens in danger”. “All the necessary actions are taken to locate both the perpetrators and those possibly hiding behind the incident”, he added. On his behalf, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras condemned the attack and requested an immediate inquiry that would lead to the assailants’ arrest. “We unequivocally condemn the provocative attack outside the PASOK offices”, a statement issued by the Premier’s office reads.
The incident was condemned unanimously by all political parties. Government coalition partners SYRIZA and ANEL (Independent Greeks) both issued statements: “We unequivocally condemn the attack against the offices of PASOK. Such actions are directed against democracy and all citizens are against them”, SYRIZA statement reads, while ANEL characterize the attack as “suspicious”: “The Independent Greeks condemn in the strongest terms the gun attack outside the offices of PASOK. It is a suspicious terrorist act which must be resolved” party spokesperson Mandalena Papadopoulou underlined.
Main opposition party of New Democracy said the bullets fired outside a political party headquarters are targeting democracy: “Tonight’s attack against PASOK is not fake news, but bullets against Democracy. Only three days after New Democracy highlighted the problem of lawlessness, unknown individuals with Kalashnikovs shot policemen outside the offices of PASOK. Mr. Tsipras’ abusive and defamatory show in Parliament cannot hide the magnitude of the problem he has created.” In a similar tone Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis requested the resignation of Alternate Minister of Citizens’ Protection and Public Order resignation: “Mr. Toskas is dangerously incapable. I call for his resignation and replacement by a responsible person because the SYRIZA-ANEL government tolerates terrorist acts.”