The home of Germany’s ambassador to Greece was sprayed with gunfire from automatic weapons early on Monday, in a suspected terrorist attack the government said was aimed at hurting the country’s image before it takes over the presidency of the European Union. No one was hurt.
Anti-terrorism police cordoned off streets around the official residence of Ambassador Wolfgang Dold following the pre-dawn shooting on a busy road in the Halandri area of the capital. They recovered more than 60 bullet casings from the scene.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Six people were briefly detained for questioning and released without charge while investigators were examining video from surveillance cameras as well as a stolen car found near the scene of the shooting, police said.
As Greece’s biggest bailout lender, Germany is often the subject of strong criticism in the country, which is suffering through a sixth year of recession and tough austerity measures imposed as a condition of its rescue loans.
Dold, a 55-year-old career diplomat who has three children, thanked the government for the police’s “swift response”.
“To those responsible for this action, I state it will not affect the close and friendly relations between our two countries, and it will not reverse the country’s economic recovery,” he said in a statement.
Foreign diplomats were repeatedly targeted by far-left terrorist groups active from the mid-1970s but such attacks have been rare since a major police crackdown on radical militants that started more than a decade ago and resulted in multiple arrests and convictions.
The same building had been targeted in a 1999 attack using an improvised rocket launcher that also resulted in no injuries and was claimed by the November 17 terrorist group.
On Monday, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras telephoned German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well the German ambassador following the attack. The government said it was meant to tarnish the country’s reputation during its Jan. 1-June 30 presidency of the EU.
“The Greek government expresses its outrage and outright condemnation of today’s cowardly terrorist action which had the only apparent and objective of (damaging) Greece’s image abroad ... The perpetrators will soon be brought to justice,” a Foreign Ministry statement said.