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Greek Terror Suspect Possibly Involved in 1975 Killing of CIA Athens Station Chief


Greek police say a suspected member of the November 17 terrorist organization they arrested this week took part in the 1975 killing of the CIA's Athens station chief, the first assassination carried out by the group. Police say 46-year-old Pavlos Serifis is a long-standing member of November 17 and was involved in planning several of its attacks.

Mr. Serifis, the 12th suspected November 17 member to be arrested since Greece began its crackdown on the shadowy terrorist group, was picked up by police on Wednesday.

Greek authorities say he played a role in the assassination of Richard Welch, the CIA's top official in Greece, 27 years ago. Mr. Serifis is the only suspect so far to be linked to that murder, the first of 23 carried out by November 17 over a 25-year period.

Mr. Welch was gunned down in an Athens suburb in December, 1975 by a three-man hit squad that surrounded his car.

November 17, which was named for the day in 1973 when Greece's then-ruling military junta quashed a student rebellion, has killed American, British and Turkish diplomats as well as Greek politicians, businessmen and prosecutors. It has also carried out bombings, rocket attacks and bank robberies.

Other suspects in custody have confessed to taking part in attacks that occurred from the mid-1980's up until the year 2000, when November 17 killed its last victim, British defense attache Brigadier Stephen Saunders.

Until now, police had little information about the radical Marxist group's early years. They say they hope Mr. Serifis can shed light on the origins of one of Europe's most elusive terrorist organizations.

Mr. Serifis, a telephone operator at a children's hospital, has denied belonging to November 17. So has Aleksandros Giotopoulos, a university professor now in custody whom police have identified as the group's mastermind.

November 17 operated with impunity for more than a quarter of a century until a botched bomb attack last month at the port of Piraeus unleashed a wave of arrests. Police said Thursday they have detained a 13th suspected member of the group, a man they identified as Patroclus Tselendis.

Greece has been under pressure to stamp out terrorism before it hosts the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Greek authorities say they believe they have virtually smashed November 17 and seized most of its weapons.

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