May 30, 2006

Failed bomb attack targets Greek minister

By Dina Kyriakidou

ATHENS (Reuters) - A powerful bomb targeting Greek Culture
Minister George Voulgarakis exploded in central Athens on
Tuesday, wrecking cars but causing no injuries, police said.

They said the bomb, apparently remotely detonated, was
aimed at the minister just as he was going to work. There was
no claim of responsibility but police said it looked like the
work of one of Greece's leftist groups.

"It went off just before he left for work," a police
official said. "It was really strong, it was aimed at

Police had said earlier the bomb was placed under a car and
detonated by timer. But evidence now showed 2-3 kilos (4-7
pounds) of dynamite were strapped to a bicycle seat near the
car and set off from about 30 meters (yards) away, the official

The area was cordoned off and helicopters hovered overhead
as bomb experts and sniffer dogs scoured the street for
evidence. Voulgarakis, 46, was at home at the time of the
attack, which damaged nearby cars.

"It was an attack against democracy. I have complete
confidence that the Greek police will do their job," the
minister told reporters as he left his home after the blast.

Voulgarakis had been public order minister until February
and his move to the Culture Ministry during a government
reshuffle was widely seen as a demotion due to his handling of
a phone tapping scandal that rocked Greece for weeks.

The minister is also under pressure over claims made by 28
Pakistani immigrants, who said they were abducted and then
tortured by Greek authorities at unknown locations after last
year's London suicide bombings.

Voulgarakis has denied any wrongdoing.


Tuesday's explosion shattered windows and sent debris
flying into nearby streets and an empty school yard.

"It was a huge blast, it knocked me down," neighbor
Thanassis Angelopoulos told Greek television. "I saw the car
being lifted up in the air and its doors flung wide open."

Major bomb attacks have become a rarity in Greece since the
leaders of the deadly November 17 urban guerrilla group were
captured and convicted before the 2004 Athens Olympics. The
group killed 23 people in 27 years of drive-by shootings and
precision bomb attacks.

Several small leftist and anarchist groups still hurl
petrol bombs or stage makeshift gas canister bomb attacks
against Greek and foreign targets, but their attacks usually
cause no injuries and only minor damage.

Voulgarakis was also targeted in 2003, when he was an
opposition conservative New Democracy party deputy. A gas
canister bomb destroyed cars parked under his building and
police had to evacuate his family.

Police said Voulgarakis was on a list of senior government
officials considered possible targets and that a police bomb
squad had conducted a daily check of his street shortly before
the explosion.

"Orders were given to immediately step up controls at all
the other possible targets," the police official said.

There were no warning calls or claims of responsibility, he