Bomb Blast Damages Athens Court Building

(New York Times)

ATHENS — A powerful bomb detonated outside a court building near central Athens on Thursday morning, but warning calls allowed the area to be cleared, the police said. There were no injuries, though the building and nearby cars were damaged.

The blast came as European concerns over the possibility of attacks by Islamist extremists is at a high pitch, but counterterrorism officials here remain focused on anarchists, like the Greek group that claimed responsibility for recent parcel bombs sent to foreign embassies in Athens and beyond. One addressed to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, reached her Berlin mailroom.

The authorities said that calls made about 7:40 a.m. to a private television station, Alter, and a daily newspaper, Eleftherotypia, warned that a bomb would go off in 40 minutes.

“In both cases, the caller said the device had been strapped to a scooter outside the courthouse and gave the scooter’s registration number,” said an officer at the Athens police headquarters who spoke on ground rules of anonymity. “The explosion occurred two minutes after the deadline,” the officer said.

Police bomb disposal experts were examining the remnants of the device and the scooter.

A local resident told the Skai television station that he had seen two men in police uniforms pull up near the court building on a scooter about 6:30 a.m. The witness said he greeted the men, who told him the scooter had engine problems before getting into a white van parked nearby and being driven away by a third suspect.

Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis, who visited the scene, said that Greece would “not be intimidated by terrorist attacks.”

The officer at the Athens police headquarters said that another anonymous call made to the Eleftherotypia newspaper nearly an hour after the blast at the courthouse warned that a second bomb would go off at a tax office in southern Athens.