Blast At U.S. Embassy Called 'Terrorism' - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

01/12/07 - Athens, Greece

Blast At U.S. Embassy Called 'Terrorism'

The U.S. Embassy is seen after an explosion in Athens early Friday, Jan. 12, 2007. The U.S. Embassy is seen after an explosion in Athens early Friday, Jan. 12, 2007.

An anti-tank shell was fired at the U.S. Embassy early Friday, striking the front of the building but causing no injuries. A senior police official said the blast was an act of terrorism, raising fears of a resurgence of far-left Greek militant groups.

Police cordoned off streets around the heavily guarded building after the explosion shortly before 6 a.m. The shell struck the third floor and smashed glass in nearby buildings.

Investigators were examining what they believed was the device used to fire the rocket shell from a construction site near the embassy.

"This is an act of terrorism. We don't know where from," Attica Police Chief Asimakis Golfis said. "There was a shell that exploded in the toilets of the building ... It was fired from street level."

Embassy officials confirmed that an explosion had taken place and said that no one had been injured. U.S. ambassador Charles Reis said the damage was "not extensive."

"There can be no justification for such a senseless act of violence ... The embassy was occupied at the time (but) nobody was hurt," he said.

Reis said there had been no warning of the attack.

"We're treating it as a very serious attack we will determine what it is when we know (more)," he said.

Authorities were searching apartment buildings near the U.S. Embassy and a nearby hospital for evidence.

"Such actions in the past have had a very heavy cost for the country - moral, financial and for the international standing of the country," said Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who visited the embassy after the blast. "The Greek government is determined to undertake every effort to not allow such phenomena to be repeated in the future."

Kiosk owner Giorgos Yiannoulis described the explosion as strong.

"I heard a loud bang; I didn't realize what was going on," said Yiannoulis, who runs a kiosk near the embassy.

Traffic came to a standstill for more than three hours across parts of central Athens, as police and emergency services scrambled to the embassy building, which is a frequent destination for protest groups.

It was the first major attack against a U.S. target in more than a decade, following the arrest of members of Greece's far-left November 17 terrorist group. The group was blamed for killing 23 people - including U.S., British and Turkish officials - and dozens of bomb attacks.

In 2003, a special court gave multiple life sentences to November 17's leader, chief assassin and three other members. Lesser sentences were given to 10 others.

November 17 carried out a rocket attack against the U.S. embassy in 1996, causing minor damage and no injuries.

Several obscure militant groups have appeared since the November 17 members were arrested. Radical groups Revolutionary Struggle and Popular Revolutionary Action have been blamed for the bombings of three government ministries in 2005.

Story courtesy of the Associated Press.

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