SHAFAQNA – A notorious veteran of a far-left Greek terrorist group was arrested near Athens Saturday, police said, almost a year after he absconded while on prison leave.Christodoulos Xiros, 56, was arrested in a suburb south of Athens Saturday nearly a year to the day after his January 7, 2014 disappearance while serving multiple life sentences for deadly attacks he conducted as a hitman for the November 17 group.
Xiros was immediately handed to anti-terrorism authorities, but police revealed no other details of his arrest.
Before its breakup in 2002, November 17 was one of Greece’s most violent far-left organisations, claiming responsibility for 23 assassinations during its 27-year span, including the 1975 killing of the CIA’s Athens station chief, Richard Welch.
Despite November 17’s dissolution, Xiros allegedly remained a committed militant and maintained close contacts with fellow jailed radicals.
Shortly after his disappearance last year, he appeared in an online video berating Greece’s government over the austerity policies it enacted at the behest of international creditors and threatening to “fire the guerrilla shotgun against those who stole our life and sold our dreams.”
Three months later, authorities found DNA on a parcel bomb sent to a police station in the city of Itea that matched traces lifted from the car Xiros used to go into hiding.
Authorities suspect Xiros began working with a group calling itself “Conspiracy of Cells of Fire,” which claimed responsibility for the parcel bomb — which was detonated by police — and expressed solidarity with the fugitive.
Xiros’ arrest marks a breakthrough for Greek police, but the country still faces a threat from other like-minded, far-left militants prepared to carry out violent attacks.
In December, gunmen raked the Israeli embassy in Athens with machinegun fire. A year earlier, the German ambassador’s residence was targeted in a similar attack.
No one was injured in either incident, which police suspected to be the work of left-wing extremists.
In April 2014, a booby-trapped car exploded outside the Bank of Greece in central Athens as Greece prepared to return to debt markets after a four-year absence.
The “Revolutionary Struggle” militant group claimed responsibility for that attack.