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Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
Greek militant group 'still alive'
Alleged member of November 17 Nikos Papanastasiou is escorted by police
A dozen alleged members have been arrested
Greek police are examining a statement allegedly issued by the urban guerrilla group, November 17, claiming it is still active.

The text, published in a leading newspaper, says that although it has lost many of its members, the far-left organisation may be stepping up its campaign in the future.


We are still alive

November 17 alleged letter
Its publication follows the arrest of a dozen alleged operatives, including the suspected leader, and raids on its weapons stocks.

But Greek police say they doubt the authenticity of the document, which does not bear the group's distinctive marks.

Edition of paper carrying statement
The statement was published in a Greek newspaper
If authentic, this latest declaration could undermine the authorities hopes of controlling political violence ahead of Greece's European Union presidency next year, and the 2004 Athens Olympics, says the BBC's Panos Polyzoidis in Athens.

November 17, an underground Marxist group named after a student uprising in the 1970s against Greece's military regime, has claimed more than 20 high-profile assassinations since it was founded.

Its last act is believed to have been the murder in June 2000 of British military attache Stephen Saunders in Athens.

Abduction threat

The statement claiming the group is still in business was published in the left-wing Eleftherotypia newspaper, which says it found it in a rubbish bin after being directed there by an anonymous telephone call.

The text says only one of the group's branches was struck by last month's arrests, and hints that in the future the group could adopt a strategy of high-profile abductions to secure the release of its detained members.

"We will wait for their fair trial. But if it is even slightly reminiscent of [Greece's 1967-74 military] junta-style trials, future targets will be taken with one more aim: the exchange of prisoners," the letter says.

In the past, November 17 declarations have been marked with a specific stamp, but in this case, a new stamp was used, police said.

The language also appears rather simplistic compared to previous texts, they said.

There have been 14 arrests of alleged November 17 members in the last month.


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18 Jul 02 | Europe
18 Jul 02 | Europe
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