Bombing near Athens damages offices of Greek media group


ATHENS: A powerful bomb detonated outside a major Greek broadcaster and newspaper publisher near Athens early Monday, causing serious damage to the facade of the building but no injuries. Greek politicians across the spectrum condemned it as an “attack on democracy.”

The blast occurred at 2:37 a.m. outside the building of the Skai television channel and radio station, which also houses the newspaper Kathimerini, part of the same media group. A police spokesman said the explosion followed anonymous calls to another television station and news website shortly before 2 a.m.

“They said a bomb would go off in 45 minutes and kept repeating ‘this is not a hoax,’ ” said the spokesman, Theodoros Chronopoulos. “It was a big explosion.”

He said the bomb had been in a backpack that was hung on a barrier along the busy coastal road that runs in front of the Skai offices in suburb south of Athens. Greek media reported that it contained up to 10 kilograms, or 22 pounds, of explosives.

The explosion shattered windows up to the sixth floor of the building, leaving broken glass and debris on the ground around the entrance. Nearby apartment blocks and vehicles also suffered minor damage. No one was injured, as the authorities had evacuated the building before the explosion.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, as is usual with domestic terrorist groups that have targeted the media in the past.

Similar attacks have been carried out by the far-left Group of Popular Fighters, but the police would not comment on speculation that the group was responsible for Monday’s bombing. That group set off powerful explosives at the Athens appeals court a year ago and at the offices of the Federation of Greek Industries in 2015; in both cases, the detonations were preceded by warning calls, so there were no casualties.

Greece has a long history of political violence from across the political spectrum. It had died down, but picked up again after 2009, as an economic crisis and austerity program gripped the country.

Greek news organizations recorded video showing the moment on Monday when the blast ejected a cloud of thick smoke from the building, shook the surrounding area and set off car alarms. They also showed the aftermath, including scenes inside the building, where desks were covered with broken glass.

The explosion prompted a flood of statements by politicians from virtually all parties, many of whom visited the scene. Public Order Minister Olga Gerovasili and Aristeidis Andrikopoulos, chief of the national police force, visited the scene shortly after counterterrorism officers arrived there.

“Democracy is shielded and will not be threatened,” Ms. Gerovasili said.

In a written statement, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras condemned “an attack by cowardly and dark forces against democracy itself.”

“They will not achieve their goal though, neither to terrorize nor to disorient,” he added.

Speaking from the scene of the attack, Mr. Tsipras’s political rival, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leader of the conservative New Democracy party, suggested that the blast was a “side effect” of a “toxic climate” fueled by the leftist-led government.

“Tolerance of violence, from small-scale violence to a terrorist attack, is extremely dangerous,” Mr. Mitsotakis said, adding that “pluralism and democracy will not be gagged.”

President Prokopis Pavlopoulos described the attack as “a criminal and provocatively anti-democratic act.”

Skai resumed broadcasting shortly after the attack. In a statement, its employees said, “We will not be gagged and will not be intimidated by any threat, in whatever form.”