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Anti-terror policeman shot dead in Athens

GUNMEN shot dead an anti-terrorist police officer guarding a witness in central Athens early yesterday in an escalation of domestic terrorist attacks in Greece.

Greece denounced the "cowardly attack." There was no claim of responsibility but police matched bullets from at least one of the weapons used in previous attacks by Greek far-left militant group Sect of Revolutionaries.

A police spokesman said between 15 and 20 shots were fired at the officer by at least three gunmen at about 6:20am in the residential district of Patisia.

"There was no warning, no telephone calls," he said. "This was a cold-blooded murder."

It was the first targeted killing attributed to domestic terrorism in years.

Greek terrorist groups have stepped up attacks, particularly against police targets, since riots in December triggered by the fatal police shooting of a teenage boy. But most have been late-night bombings that caused no injuries.

The slain officer was identified as 41-year-old Nektarios Savvas, a father-of-one.

He had just taken over the morning shift of guard duty outside the home of a key witness in the trial of the far-left Greek terrorist group Revolutionary Popular Struggle, known by its Greek acronym ELA. Only the officer was targeted in the attack, with no apparent attempt to approach the witness's home.

Coroner Philippos Koutsaftis said the officer had died of multiple gunshot wounds to the head and body.

"He was carrying a gun which was holstered. He was hit many times by shots that appear to have been fired at close range," he said.

Before disbanding in 1995, ELA was blamed for killing a police officer and a Supreme Court prosecutor, as well as scores of bombings over 20 years. More than 30 attacks were aimed at American targets, mostly in the early 1980s, including the bombing of the United States ambassador's residence, embassy vehicles, and branches of American banks and companies.

In 2004, four people were convicted of being involved with ELA and were sentenced to 25 years in prison. But all have appealed their convictions. The witness the officer was guarding had been involved in the original trial and also testified in the appeals case earlier this year. The appeals case is expected to continue until later this year.

The officer died at the scene, police said. Television footage showed him slumped over in the driver's seat of an unmarked vehicle.



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