Greece: Terror arrest after tourist area shooting
By ELENA BECATOROS
Associated Press | July 17,2014
Policemen guard the scene where an Australian tourist was wounded after a shootout in the tourist area of Monastiraki in central Athens on Wednesday. Greek police arrested one of the country’s most wanted men during the incident.
ATHENS, Greece — Greek police arrested one of the country’s most wanted men — a fugitive convicted of terrorism — during a shootout Wednesday in Athens’ central tourist district that left four people wounded, authorities said.
Police said the wounded included two tourists from Australia and Germany, a police officer and the fugitive, Nikos Maziotis. The 43-year-old has been on the run along with his wife Panagiota Roupa since June 2012 following their release from jail in 2011 after serving the maximum 18 months in pre-trial detention.
Maziotis and Roupa were convicted in absentia last year and sentenced to 25 years for participation in Revolutionary Struggle, a group active between 2003 and 2009 and best known for firing a rocket-propelled grenade into the U.S. Embassy and bombing the Athens Stock Exchange. Neither of those attacks caused injuries.
In January, authorities announced a 1 million-euro ($1.3 million) reward for information leading to each of the couple’s arrest. Roupa is still at large.
Wednesday’s shootout began in the crowded Monastiraki area, near the city’s main Syntagma Square and historic Plaka district.
Police Chief Dimitris Tsaknakis said Maziotis fired eight times from a handgun while being pursued and was fired upon and hit once in the shoulder by police.
“He tried to obscure his appearance ... and was wearing a wig. The anti-terrorism police requested that officers in the area check his identity,” he said.
Tsaknakis said Maziotis was using a false identity, and had been implicated in two bank robberies since his disappearance. But he refused to say whether police believed he had an accomplice in Wednesday’s shooting.
Maziotis received surgery for his gunshot wound at a state hospital in central Athens hospital under heavy police guard.
A group of a few dozen protesters appeared late Wednesday night on the street outside the hospital, chanting slogans and holding a banner in support of Maziotis. They were met by riot police who prevented them from reaching the hospital entrance, and the protesters left shortly afterward.
Police were searching for suspected accomplices, and for where he might have been staying in Athens.
Photographs from the scene of the shooting showed the suspect lying in a pool of blood on a sidewalk, his hands handcuffed behind his back, before he was taken in a police-escorted ambulance to a nearby hospital.
Police said the others wounded were a police officer and two bystanders, both foreign tourists - an Australian man hospitalized with a leg wound, and a German man with minor wounds who was discharged from a hospital shortly after the shooting.
“The whole thing lasted about half an hour. We saw a lot of police running through the streets and later we heard the shots,” souvenir store employee Makis Tourounias said.
“There wasn’t much panic. Store owners and police were telling people to come indoors. But not everyone realized what was going on.”
Public Order Minister Vassilis Kikilias called Wednesday’s arrested “an important success” that would have “multiple benefits for Greek society.”