Sarkozy, embassies targeted in 'far-left' Athens bomb plot
Police on Monday said they had foiled parcel bomb attacks aimed at French President Nicolas Sarkozy and three foreign embassies in the Greek capital, arresting two suspected far-left militants.
One of two men arrested was already wanted in connection with an elusive far-left group that specialises in arson attacks on offices and homes of politicians, known as the Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei, police said.
Both men were refusing to give their fingerprints and cannot be identified by name pending a judicial order, a police source said, although authorities later released their photographs and asked the public for further information.
Two women initially held for questioning have been released.
One of the packages, addressed to Mexico's embassy in Athens, detonated in the headquarters of a courier company in the central Athens district of Pangrati, burning a female employee's hand.
It ignited when the staffer became suspicious of its contents and threw it to the ground, a police source said.
"There was no explosion but we saw smoke coming out and heard a woman shouting," a neighbour told state television NET.
"I took a fire extinguisher into the room. It was full of smoke and smelled of gunpowder; you needed a mask to go in there," he said.
Two men, aged 22 and 24, were arrested at a bus-stop a short distance away.
Police said in a statement they were intending to mail a total of four parcel bombs and were both armed with Glock handguns. One wore a bullet-proof vest and a wig.
"The incident seems rather ridiculous and in Sarkozy's case it's quite evident that this parcel would never have reached its destination," police spokesman Thanassis Kokalakis told AFP.
From a postal slip found on the suspects, the police tracked down and exploded a second parcel, addressed to the Dutch embassy, at a neighbouring courier company.
Two more devices found on the detainees were intended for Sarkozy and the Belgian embassy, the police said.
The Dutch foreign ministry said it had been informed by the Greek authorities "and remain in close contact with them."
The French presidency declined to comment.
In January, Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei planted a small explosive device in a garbage bin outside the Greek parliament after police claimed to have arrested several of the group's members in raids around the capital.
The group also claimed an arson attack on the AFP Athens bureau in December 2008, staged in support of anti-establishment militants arrested at the time for alleged railway sabotage in France.
Attacks on government and police targets are relatively frequent in Greece and are commonly attributed to left-wing extremists. They are usually designed to avoid causing injury.
Cars with diplomatic licence plates are also regularly targeted in late-night arson attacks blamed on anarchists.
Parcel bombs are rare but a similar device fatally injured the then police minister's security chief in June after being smuggled into the heavily-guarded ministry building.
Police have not linked any known group to that attack.
Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei appeared in early 2008 and has continued operating despite the arrest of nine of its purported members last year.
The incident occurred as the Greek judiciary prepares to open proceedings against three suspected members of another far-left group, Revolutionary Struggle, six of whose members were jailed in April.
Appearing in 2003, Revolutionary Struggle features on the list of terrorist organisations of the European Union and the United States. It has carried out over a dozen strikes, including a rocket attack on the United States embassy.
© 2010 AFP