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Thursday, 8 June, 2000, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
November 17 group: Small but deadly
Car on fire in Athens
A 1992 rocket attack on the Greek finance minister
November 17, the left-wing Greek group suspected of murdering UK Defence Attache Stephen Saunders, has its roots in the resistance to the military junta which ruled Greece from 1967 to 1975.

The highly secretive, much feared group takes its name from the date of a 1973 student uprising, which was crushed when the army sent tanks to an Athens polytechnic, killing 20 students.


Recent attacks
1989
Stole rockets from Greek army depot
1990-91
Attacked US and UK business interests during Gulf War
1994
Killed former state bank governor
Tried to blow up UK aircraft carrier
1997
Killed UK shipping tycoon Costis Peraticos
The group's first known attack came in December 1975, when American Richard Welch - the Central Intelligence Agency chief in Athens - was shot dead as he returned from a party.

The .45-calibre pistol used in the assassination became the trademark of the group.

The attack on the CIA boss was apparently motivated by US support for the Greek military dictatorship.

The group has admitted a total of 21 killings, including four US diplomats.

Anti-Western


Damaged roof
Last year a rocket was fired at the home of the German ambassador in Athens
It has maintained its anti-Western stance following the end of the Cold War, and its attacks appear to be aimed at discouraging US and Western European military and diplomatic ties with Greece.

Six years ago, the group is believed to have planned to blow up a British aircraft carrier, using anti-tank mines - an attack which was unsuccessful.

Last year, a bomb attack on the German embassy in Athens was attributed to November 17.

The attack on Brigadier Saunders came as he was on his way to a meeting about arms imports to Greece.

The group opposes Greek participation in Nato and the European Union.


November 17 logo
The group professes a Marxist ideology
It is firmly anti-capitalist, and has called for a popular uprising against the Greek middle and upper classes.

In 1994, a November 17 gunman killed a former governor of the Greek state bank.

Impunity

Anti-terrorism experts have estimated that the group has no more than 25 participants - many of them possibly family members.

The group's small size has enabled it to operate securely and with impunity - police are reported not to know the identity of a single November 17 member.

A Greek politician who survived a November 17 attack remarked that "Greece is the only country where it has been impossible to not only smoke out terrorism, but even to make a single substantial strike against it".

But some commentators believe that because the group emerged from the same resistance movement that gave rise to today's political establishment, there may be influential figures in Greece who do not want its members brought to book.

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