Nikos Maziotis is the mastermind of Revolutionary Struggle, a group active between 2003 and 2009 and known for firing a rocket-propelled grenade into the US Embassy and bombing the Athens Stock Exchange.
By Andy Dabilis for Southeast European Times in Athens – 08/08/14
Police officers stand next to the seriously injured leading member of defunct militant outfit Revolutionary Struggle, Nikos Maziotis, after a shooting in central Athens, in the Monastiraki area, on July 16th. [AFP]
The apprehension of a notorious terrorist after a gun battle in the middle of a popular tourist spot in Athens is being hailed by authorities – who are now on alert against signs that the group may try to retaliate.
Nikos Maziotis, who, with his wife Panayiota Roupa were released from a pre-trial detention two years ago and vanished, engaged in a shootout with a squad of police in the Monastiraki flea market shopping area on July 16th as tourists fled.
There was a 1 million euro bounty for information leading to their arrests. Greek officials were eager to get him into custody, particularly after another terrorist, Christodoulos Xeros, walked away from a holiday furlough in January.
Maziotis is the mastermind of Revolutionary Struggle, a group active between 2003 and 2009 and known for firing a rocket-propelled grenade into the US Embassy and bombing the Athens Stock Exchange. Neither of those attacks caused injuries.
Authorities had said he was also believed behind a car bombing outside a main branch of the Bank of Greece in Athens in April, just ahead of a visit to Greece from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Maziotis was hospitalised with a shoulder wound before being taken to a high-security prison in Athens and then transferred to another in the country's second-largest city, Thessaloniki.
Maziotis refused to speak with a prosecutor other than to state his occupation was "Revolutionary." He reportedly told a magistrate who came to see him that "the members of Revolutionary Struggle do not have to answer for anything. It is others who should answer for the social genocide that is being carried out in the country."
Two days after his capture, police, hunting for accomplices in bank robberies they said he carried out, found an apartment hideout in a northern Athens neighborhood. Roupla is still at large.
The adventure gripped Greeks, but polices sources who weren't named told the newspaper Kathimerini they believe he had been planning a terrorist attack this summer and feared his group could be planning an attack in revenge for his arrest.
Efi Lambropoulou, a professor of criminology at Panteion University in Athens, said she didn't think Revolutionary Struggle would strike again soon.
"Revenge for what? For the situation of the country? If they wanted revenge they could do something else, not robberies," she told SETimes.
The group blames the government, bankers and international lenders propping up the economy with bailouts for attached austerity measures that they blame for record unemployment and deep poverty.
Despite the arrest, Lambropoulou said counter-terrorism police still have their work cut out. "The new terrorism is a very complex issue, dangerous and with many faces," she said.
Police in May linked Maziotis to six armed robberies believed to have netted him and his accomplices around 15 million euros in cash to finance their violent agenda.
He was charged with attempted murder and armed robbery. Public Order Minister Vassilis Kikilias said the arrest was "an important success" that would have "multiple benefits for Greek society."
Ioannis Michaletos, a terrorism specialist at the Athens-based Institute for Security & Defence Analysis, told SETimes: "Maziotis was foremost a symbolic personality that could mobile recruitment for the cause of the terrorist networks. Certainly his arrest will cause a slowdown in this process."
But he too had a caveat. "He was co-operating with criminal figures of the Greek underworld and if they aren't arrested his group will remain active," he said.
Evidence of the danger Maziotis poses remains. Police detained a man after the arrest and said he was linked to the terrorist, and found bulletproof vests in his house.
Police said Maziotis was working with a dangerous criminal, Vassilis Palaiocostas, who escaped by helicopter from a high-security prison five years ago.
Maziotis disdained working with other terrorists, including Xeros, who went on the Internet after he vanished and then posted a video promising a return to violence.
Michaletos though said the arrest hasn't stopped terrorism or Revolutionary Struggle. "His comrades for the time being will try to hide any evidence and 'go under' for a while."
But, he added: "Once they feel safe they will certainly strike. That's what experience has showed so far."
(Kathimerini, 28/07/14, 23/07/14, 21/07/14, 19/07/14, 18/07/14, 17/04/14, 16/07/14; AP, 16/07/14)
How concerned are you about the terrorist groups' possible reprisal from Maziotis' arrest? Add your thoughts in the comment area below.