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Greece braces for violence on uprising anniversary

Experts worry that the traditional day of Athens riots will see worse violence as extremism has risen in the past year.

On Oct. 28, two gunmen opened fire on a police station in northeastern Athens, injuring six officers. In September, a bomb exploded outside the Athens Stock Exchange, injuring a bystander. And in June, a policeman was murdered while guarding a witness in the trial of another defunct extremist group.

A number of different groups have claimed the attacks, and in the tradition of November 17, the perpetrators often publish long manifestos justifying their actions. The groups, said Kiesling, do not have a single unifying ideology, except their opposition to the state, and range from more traditional Marxism to nihilism.

They vary too in the degree of violence they see as justified. A group calling itself Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire, for example, has claimed a number of recent bomb attacks. But that group has also made warning calls. Another group, Sect of Revolutionaries, claimed responsibility for the gun attacks against police — whose motive seems clearly to kill.

The government says it is investigating whether any of the groups have links to November 17, but at the very least, experts agree that today's extremist groups see themselves as the older group's ideological heirs.

Bossis said she has been monitoring the chatter on extremist websites and believes groups are planning more attacks for later this year.

"I think there will be a lot of violence coming up," she said. "They are preparing."

She said she believes that the attacks will continue to escalate because Greece's deteriorating economic climate and widespread public discontent means such groups have many ready recruits. But Kiesling thinks the recent election of a Socialist government may help defuse the situation — he said far-left violence has tended to decline in Greece when left-wing governments were power.

Greece's government is worried and has promised to reform the country's outmoded police system to help it better tackle modern threats like terrorism and organized crime. It wants to create a new, FBI-style unit with highly trained specialists that will handle anti-terrorism efforts along with other crimes.

In the meantime, the new government has replaced several high-ranking members of the anti-terrorism unit with people who were involved in the successful case against November 17 — although that group was eventually captured only when one of its members accidentally blew himself up while attempting to set off a bomb.

Bossis, who has served as an advisor to previous government, said there is widespread agreement that reforms are needed, but so far, no government has been able to follow through.