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Greek arsonists target churches
By COSTAS KANTOURIS
Associated Press
2009-04-10 04:54 AM
Arsonists planted incendiary devices at Greece's main Orthodox cathedral and three other churches Thursday in a provocative new round of anarchist violence since major riots in December.

Police said one device exploded causing minor damage outside the Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity in the port of Piraeus, near the Greek capital. No one was hurt when the crude gasoline device went off at around 3 p.m. (1200 GMT).

Police defused four similar devices found at the Orthodox Cathedral in Athens, and in the northern city of Thessaloniki's central churches of Agia Sofia and Agios Dimitrios.

An anarchist group calling itself "Nihilist Faction" claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement posted on the Internet.

The group said it carried out the attacks before Orthodox Easter on April 18 to protest what it described as the church's "underhand role in the oppression of the people."

The attacks were preceded by several warning telephone calls to the police and the local media. Arson attacks by anarchist groups are common in Greek cities but rarely occur during the day.

Metropolitan Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki said worshippers at the churches were lucky to have escaped injury.

"These people (the attackers) must be stopped ... they respect nothing," Anthimos said. "Churches are always full at this time of year, and we have many school visits ahead of Easter."

Violence by anarchist groups has flared since December riots in Greek cities triggered by the police's fatal shooting of a teenage boy.

Christos Markoyiannakis, the deputy interior minister in charge of police, vowed to continue police reforms aimed at tackling violent anarchist groups.

The government has promised to push through legislation banning demonstrators from wearing hoods at public protest rallies and created a new police branch to respond to public disturbances and arson attacks.

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