In Greece, Bombings Punctuate Trial of Terrorist Group ; Friday's Explosions Trigger Fresh Concerns about Terrorism and Olympic Security

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With less than a year to go until the Olympic Games open in Athens, Greek terrorism is proving to be like the Hydra of mythology: No sooner do authorities sever one head than another appears.

Two bomb blasts shook central Athens Friday just as crucial testimony was unfolding in the trial of alleged leaders of the November 17 radical group.

The bombing is raising concerns about both the security of the coming games and a possible new generation of terrorists in Greece.

An unknown group calling itself the "Revolutionary Struggle" claimed responsibility for the blasts. Investigators believe that the perpetrators may be young sympathizers with November 17, whose alleged members are now on trial for murders and other crimes committed over 27 years.

"From the construction of the devices we believe them to be the work of remnants of the old guard, individuals sympathetic to November 17, who were able to use younger people to place the bombs," says a senior official at Greece's counterterrorism unit.

Authorities said the twin time-bomb explosions, within 20 minutes of each other, were a deliberate effort to kill police officers. One officer was wounded in the attacks.

"These are not your usual attacks with petrol bombs or small gas canisters against diplomats' cars and cash dispensers," warned a police spokesman. "They are sophisticated, the most sophisticated for several years, and so is their target."

Perhaps the greatest blow was to Greek pride.

Last November, Greek authorities announced that they had at last broken November 17, which took its name from a suppressed 1973 student uprising and first announced its presence after the murder of Athens CIA station chief Richard Welch in 1975.

Friday's bombing, said US ambassador to Greece Thomas Miller, was "a very big development, not only in terms of domestic terrorism, but psychologically," which occurred just as "people are feeling proud that they finally have wrapped up this group."

In rounding up the 19 alleged members of November 17, Greek police believed they had foiled the greatest domestic security threat to the Athens Games. Greece is spending a record $600 million on security for the Olympics, which open here in August. Seven nations, including the US and Australia, are assisting Greece with security preparations. In the first summer games since Sept. 11, antiterrorism units are being drilled in foiling attacks, including biological and chemical assaults. …