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Roundup: Wanted Greek extremist leader arrested in Athens shootout


by Maria Spiliopoulou

ATHENS, July 16 (Xinhua) -- One of Greece's most wanted extremists, Nikos Maziotis, the fugitive leader of the urban guerilla group Revolutionary Struggle, was arrested on Wednesday in a shootout after a failed robbery attempt in central Athens, which left four persons slightly injured, Greek police said.

In a brief press release, authorities confirmed earlier information that Maziotis was the person who was detained wounded after exchanging fire with police in a popular tourist district near the parliament building shortly after noon.

Maziotis is currently undergoing a surgery on his shoulder at a nearby hospital, while a policeman and two tourists, a German and an Australian, who were lightly injured also, receive first aid.

The German national has been already dismissed from the hospital, while the Australian is expected to leave on Thursday. Greek Minister of Health Makis Voridis and Minister of Tourism Olga Kefalogiannis visited the injured tourist at the hospital to wish him speedy recovery.

Meanwhile, as a police operation is still underway to trace and arrest his accomplices, a taxi driver has been brought in for questioning in connection with the case.

According to information so far, Maziotis, who was wearing a wig, was first spotted by police for moving suspiciously outside a store and a bank branch near Monastiraki district.

He fled and was stopped a few hundred meters further as he was trying to escape in a taxi amidst a shootout with police.

Maziotis was arrested in 2010 as a key suspect of terrorism activity, along his companion and mother of his child Panagiota Roupa. They have both been convicted in 25 years imprisonment for terrorism.

They went missing together in July 2012 during a leave from prison and ever since Maziotis had been linked to bank robberies and terrorist attacks.

The latest was a strong car bomb explosion outside the headquarters of the Central Bank of Greece in Athens in April this year, which caused material damages but no injuries.

The attack came as Maziotis through proclamations to media was threatening with new hits, as well as fugitive convicted extremist Christodoulos Xiros of the dismantled November 17 group who went missing in January 2014 during a similar leave.

The Greek government announced earlier that it is offering a total of 4 million euro (5.4 million U.S. dollars) reward for information which would lead to the arrest of Xiros, Maziotis, Roupa and the unidentified perpetrators of the attack outside the ultra-Right Golden Dawn party's offices in a northern Athens suburb in November who killed two party members and seriously injure a third.

Greece has suffered from domestic radicalism for years.

The Revolutionary Struggle took over from November 17 after its dismantling in 2003, staging a series of attacks against political, police, judicial, financial and foreign targets.

Among the group's major hits was the 2007 attack on the U.S. embassy in Athens with an RPG which also caused material damages but no injuries.

In three decades of activity from local urban guerilla groups in Greece dozens of people have been killed and injured.

In a first reaction by the government on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos praised Maziotis' arrest as a "great success of Greek police which shows that the Greek state can safeguard citizens' safety and democracy."