BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Europe
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's David Shukman
"The gunman launched the attack in the busiest street of Athens"
 real 28k

David Madden, British ambassador in Athens
"Shock, horror and disbelief"
 real 28k

Constantine Bitsos, charge d'affaires in London
"Terrorism is not a Greek phenomenon"
 real 28k

Thursday, 8 June, 2000, 17:55 GMT 18:55 UK
Greek pledge to hunt diplomat killers
Police examine Saunders's car
Greece is under pressure to clamp down on terrorism
The Greek Government has pledged to do everything in its power to catch the killers of a British defence attache who was gunned down in the capital, Athens.

Brigadier Stephen Saunders
Brigadier Saunders was shot four times
Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis telephoned his UK counterpart Tony Blair to express his horror at the assassination of Brigadier Stephen Saunders, and said Greece would "do its duty" to defend citizens' safety.

Greek police say they are almost certain that the guerrilla group November 17 was behind the killing, after ballistics experts linked the .45 pistol used in the attack to previous killings by the group.

The news has prompted renewed calls for Greece to implement more effective anti-terrorist measures.

Shot by same gun
Greek police official and driver killed
USAF officer Robert Chant killed
Industrialist Alexandros Athanasiadis killed
MP Eleftherios Papadimitriou wounded

The .45 pistol used to kill Brigadier Saunders is first known to have been used in the 1980 assassination of the deputy head of the Greek riot police, Pandelis Petrou, and his driver Sotiris Stamoulis.

It subsequently appeared in attacks on Greek and foreign officials in 1984, 1988 and 1992.

Motorcycle assassins

The November 17 group, which is opposed to Greece's links to the West, targets Greek public figures and Western diplomats and businessmen.

Mrs Saunders
Brigadier Saunders' wife, Heather, is escorted to the hospital
Brigadier Saunders was driving along his usual route to work at about 0800 local time (0500 GMT) on Thursday, when two men on a motorcycle drew up next to his car, and fired through the passenger side window.

The military attache staggered from his car before collapsing on the pavement in the suburb of Halandri.

Brigadier Stephen Saunders
Born: Farnborough, Hants in 1947
Married to Heather
Daughters: Nicola, 15 and Catherine, 14
1965: Joined army
1967: Commissioned into Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment
1968-71: Read geography and economics at Bristol University
1986: Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, serving in N.Ireland, Australia, Papua New Guinea and Kuwait
1999: Promoted to Brigadier and appointed defence attache to the British Embassy in Athens
He was rushed to a local hospital in a serious condition, but died of his injuries about three and a half hours later.

The attack has drawn fresh attention to Greece's lacklustre record on combating terrorist activity.

"This highlights again that Greece needs to take a tougher stance against terrorism, and we have made that point repeatedly with the government of Greece," US Defence Department spokesman Ken Bacon said.

A Nato diplomat told Reuters that Athens was considered a "danger post" for Western envoys.

Reuters also quoted a British diplomat as saying London was concerned that "terrorist organisations can carry out such acts in Greece and have done so in the past".

Police have failed to arrest a single member of November 17 in the group's 25-year history.

'Weak link'

A report last week by a US congressional commission proposed sanctions against Greece and Pakistan for "not co-operating fully" in efforts to stamp out terrorism.

We will not let the international image of our country be plagued

Greek FM George Papandreou
The US State Department described Greece as "one of the weakest links" in anti-terrorism efforts in Europe.

Foreign Minister George Papandreou - whose government has so far rejected the US criticism - said it was not clear whether the attack on Mr Saunders was linked to the threat of sanctions from Washington.

But Mr Papandreou promised "to do everything possible to bring the perpetrators to justice".

"We will not let the international image of our country be plagued," he said.

Olympic fears

Athens is likely to come under particular pressure to step up anti-terrorism measures before the 2004 Olympics, which are due to be hosted at a site not far from where Mr Saunders was shot.

UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said he would urge the Greek Government to bring the defence attache's killers to justice.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair condemned the murder of a man he described as a "consummate professional".

"It was an act of terrorism, it was contemptible as it was senseless, and will be condemned by all right minded people," Mr Blair said.

A spokesman for the European Commission described the attack as "abhorrent".

"Any attack on a diplomatic or defence official like that is an attack on democracy, which is a fundamental value on which the European Union is built," the spokesman said.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

08 Jun 00 | Europe
Greek shock at killing
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories