Greek olympics scare blamed on home grown terrorists
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Athens Bombs Raise New Worries Over Olympics
May 5, 9:41 AM (ET)
By Karolos Grohmann
ATHENS (Reuters) - Just 100 days before the start of the Athens Olympics, three bombs exploded Wednesday outside a police station in the Greek capital raising new security concerns about the world's biggest sporting event.
The Greek government was quick to play down the blasts, saying there was no evidence to link the explosions with the games and pointed the finger at home-grown extremists.
"This is an isolated incident which does not affect whatsoever the Olympic preparation of the country," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis told reporters.
Britain and France gave Greek Olympics organizers a vote of confidence, but Olympic powerhouse Australia ordered a review of its security arrangements. Athens police, the apparent target of the attacks, also said there was cause for concern.
"Those who planted the bombs did not want to just make themselves heard, they wanted to harm people," local police chief George Angellakos told reporters.
Security forces have been on high alert amid fears that the Games, the first summer Olympics since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, could be targeted by militants.
Britain, France and Australia are all part of a first-ever international Olympic security advisory group which includes Germany, the United States, Spain and Israel, and has been set up to provide help in planning, training and intelligence.
Greece has a record $1.22 billion security plan for the games with more than 50,000 security staff and has asked NATO for help with air and sea patrols as well as protection against weapons of mass destruction.
"Our cooperation with the EU, NATO and the U.S. authorities guarantees the safety of the Athens Olympics," said Karamanlis.
DYNAMITE, DETONATOR AND A CLOCK
Wednesday's pre-dawn explosions, preceded by an anonymous telephone warning, badly damaged the station in the densely populated Kalithea district near hotels to be used by Olympic officials during the August 13-29 Olympics.
The third bomb went off 30 minutes after the first two blasts while dozens of bomb experts were combing the cordoned-off area for forensic evidence.
No one has yet claimed responsibility, but police said initial evidence pointed to small local anarchist and leftist groups that regularly stage minor bomb attacks around Athens, sometimes in protest against the Olympics.
Officials said the bombs -- several sticks of dynamite connected to a detonator and a clock -- were similar to devices planted by the local Revolutionary Struggle group outside Athens courts in September and a Citibank branch in March.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair told parliament the blasts should not affect the Games.
"Our present view is that the Games should go ahead as planned," he said. "We have every faith in the way the Greek authorities are handling this."
France's sports minister sounded a similar note.
Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) Secretary-General Bob Elphinston said his country would send a team to Athens but noted it was possible some individual athletes might pull out.
"We would never stand in the way of any athlete making a personal choice in that regard," he said.
The International Olympic Committee said Greek authorities were keeping it fully informed of events, and while some National Olympic Committees had discussed safety concerns in the wake of the Athens attacks, none had yet formally requested extra security measures be put in place.