Connect to share and comment

Experts worry that Greek unrest will spread

Some see Greece as “soft underbelly of Europe” and an entry point to the rest of the continent for weapons and radicals.

 Illegal guns and discontented immigrants

With the exception of Revolutionary Struggle, a far-left paramilitary group, these new guerrilla groups emerged after the December riots. They have exotic names such as "Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei" or "Gang of Conscience" and target policemen and journalists. Investigators believe that several are merely fronts for the same groups of operatives using separately procured firearms.

Greek and foreign anti-terrorism experts point to Greece as a transit point in international arms-smuggling routes between the Middle East and the Balkans and believe that the emerging terrorist groups may even possess light anti-tank weapons in their arsenal

Given its location, Greece is exposed to a surfeit of unprovenanced weapons originating from diverse geopolitical events such as the collapse of the Soviet Union, the disbanding of the Albanian and Iraqi armies as well as the regular international arms trade. A plethora of weapons have washed up in the Greek terrorist underworld.

The security situation has so deteriorated that riot squads are permanently stationed in central Athens, packs of police motorcyclists cruise the streets and the government is considering placing snipers around police stations. Legislation banning the wearing of hoods, a favorite accessory of anarchists seeking to obscure their identity from police spotters, was introduced in early 2009. In April, Scotland Yard was invited back for the first time since the Athens Olympics to help quell the violence.

“They’re hoping they can get some breakthroughs like activating close circuit video cameras, and collecting DNA databases of suspects,” said Brady Kiesling, a former U.S. diplomat living in Greece. “When you implement such measures, political violence gets much more difficult.”

Up to 150,000 immigrants flow annually into the country from North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Aside from festering resentments encouraged by a policy of purposeful neglect fostered by the Greek government, French intelligence has highlighted Greece’s porous sea and land borders as potential access points for terrorist infiltration of the continent.

“The war on terrorism has turned Greece into a key entry and transit point for Islamic fundamentalist networks,” wrote Panos A. Kostakos, a researcher at the Department of European Studies in the U.K.’s Bath University. “The establishment and expansion of Islamic communities throughout Greece suggest that the country is rapidly evolving as a logistical and recruitment base, with terrorist networks becoming increasingly able to provide financial support for recruitment and propaganda purposes.”

In May 2009, Muslim immigrants rioted in reaction to a Greek policeman’s violent handling of a suspect’s Quran, conjuring the specter of a Muslim insurrection among Greece’s immigrant population. Muslim organizations moved swiftly to defuse the crisis but half a million illegal immigrants living in appalling conditions in the Greek capital are widely-viewed as a ticking time-bomb.

Alongside the growing racism that has seen far-right-wing parties improve their performances at the polls in recent years, fascist groups and leftists increasingly clash in the immigrant ghettoes of central Athens.

“There’s an uncertainty about the future,” Dokos said. “This will be the first post-World War II generation that will be worse off than the previous one. Young people are concerned that they’ll pay for their parents’ mistakes.”