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Triple Bombing in Athens Raises Concerns About Olympic Security - 2004-05-05

Three bombs have exploded in Athens, exactly 100 days before the Olympic Games are due to start in the Greek capital. The three homemade devices exploded before dawn outside a police station in southern Athens, injuring one officer, destroying a parked car, and blowing out nearby windows.

Police had been given a 10-minute warning following a telephone tip-off to a Greek newspaper and were trying to locate the devices when they detonated. But the tip only pointed to one device, and investigators think officers may have been lured into a relatively sophisticated three-bomb trap designed to kill or injure several people.

Nonetheless, the tip-off and the relatively small size of the bombs points away from a radical Islamic terror group, such as al-Qaida, or an affiliate. Instead, investigators are focusing on the possibility that a domestic radical group, or local criminal organization, may be responsible.

Even so, the triple bombing is cause for great concern ahead of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, which are scheduled to get underway in a little over three months.

The Greek government immediately tried to quell security fears, with Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis characterizing the blasts as an isolated incident that did not affect the safety of the Games.

Security has been a major issue in preparation for the Games, which were awarded to Athens before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Critics have suggested that Greece is not up to the job of securing the globe's biggest sporting event, but the country has hit back by spending almost $1 billion on protective measures.

As part of that security effort, Greek police have conducted successful crackdowns on local left-wing terrorist groups in recent years. The best known of those groups, called November 17, carried out hundreds of bombings and murdered embassy officials from both the United States and Britain over a 30-year period.

Many members of November 17 are now behind bars, but other radical groups still exist, including one known as Revolutionary Struggle. That group claimed responsibility for blasts that targeted courtrooms last September.

The Mayor of the Athens suburb hit by the bombings, Costas Askounis, immediately attributed the bombing to Revolutionary Struggle, and also pointed out that the nearest Olympic venues to the site of the blasts were several kilometers away.

But the blasts have done little to reassure some foreign teams preparing to travel to Greece for the summer Olympics. Australia, which was among the first to react, ordered a review of its team's security arrangements.