Page last updated at 14:10 GMT, Monday, 5 January 2009

Guns 'link several Greek attacks'

Greek police at the scene of the shooting of a Greek policeman, 5/1/2009
Anger at the police has soared since the shooting of a teenager

Weapons used to shoot a police unit in Greece overnight are linked to two previous attacks, including one by an anti-US militant group, police say.

A 21-year-old officer is in critical condition after being shot in the body and leg before dawn on Monday.

The attack followed weeks of protests after police shot a teenager dead.

The handgun used in Monday's attack was also used in 2007 in an assault on a police station, by a group which also attacked the US embassy, police said.

Tests showed the 9mm-calibre weapon was used in the attack on a police station in suburban Athens on 30 April, 2007.

That attack, which caused no injuries, was claimed by the far-left group Revolutionary Struggle.

Revolutionary Struggle also claimed responsibility after a rocket-propelled grenade was fired into the US embassy in Athens in January 2007, causing damage but no injuries.

'Lost senses'

Police also said ballistics tests showed that a second weapon used on Monday, a Kalashnikov rifle, was used in a more recent attack on police, on 23 December 2008, when two gunmen hidden within the grounds of Athens University opened fire at a riot police bus as it passed by.

About 20 police were on board the bus at the time of the attack, but none were injured.

A group calling itself Popular Action claimed to be behind that attack.

Announcing the result of the tests on the rifle - but before those on the handgun became clear - Greece's police chief, Lt Gen Vassilis Tsiatouras, played down suggestions that the two most recent shootings were carried out by a terrorist organisation.

He said he thought they were the work of a group of people who had "lost their senses" following the police killing of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos in early December.

The teenager's death provoked a wave of demonstrations and almost daily clashes between protesters and riot police.

But the later tests on the handgun appeared to establish a link to Revolutionary Struggle - a group which some experts believe was formed from remnants of the old left-wing anti-capitalist group November 17.

That group operated for almost 30 years with apparent impunity, carrying out two dozen assassinations and countless bomb attacks against mainly foreign targets, says the BBC's Malcolm Brabant in Athens.

Greek police finally captured one of the group's members in 2002. It was disbanded soon afterwards.

'Spotted gunmen'

The officer injured in Monday's shooting, 21-year-old Diamandis Matzounis, was part of a unit guarding the culture ministry.

He was on a life support machine on Monday after spending five hours in surgery. He lost several litres of blood and is described as being in a critical condition.

The officer had apparently spotted the gunmen and warned his colleagues shortly before he was hit.

The incident took place in the Exarchia district, close to where the teenaged Grigoropoulos was shot last month.

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