- guardian.co.uk, Monday 5 January 2009 12.49 GMT
Gunmen seriously wounded a policeman in Greece today in another attack linked to the death of a teenager shot by police last month.
The assailants fired automatic weapons at riot police just after 3am (1am GMT), targeting a unit guarding the culture ministry in Athens, close to where 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was killed on 6 December. His death sparked Greece's worst riots in decades, with masked protesters attacking police with gasoline bombs and rocks.
Today's attack was the second on police in a fortnight. About 40 shots were fired from at least two weapons, including an AK-47 assault rifle and a 9mm-calibre gun, police told Reuters. The gunmen threw a hand grenade at police to cover their escape.
The wounded policeman, Diamandis Matzounis, 21, was in a critical but stable condition in hospital after six hours of surgery.
On 23 December a riot police bus passing a university campus outside the city centre was shot at with two automatic rifles. None of the officers on board were injured.
The Greek police chief, Vassilis Tsiatouras, said a rifle used in today's attack was used by gunmen in the 23 December assault, for which a new leftist group called Public Action claimed responsibility, saying it was a protest against Grigoropoulos's killing.Another weapon used in today's attack, a 9mm-calibre gun, matched one used in an attack on a police station in an Athens suburb in April last year, police said. That attack, which caused no injuries, was claimed by the Revolutionary Struggle group. The far-left group had previously claimed responsibility for an attack in which a rocket-propelled grenade was fired into the front of the US Embassy in January last year, causing damage but no injuries.
The interior minister, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, described today's attack as an attempt to undermine democracy.
"Those who attacked Diamandis Matzounis targeted democracy and order," he said after visiting the wounded officer. "They will soon realise that democracy is strong and our society is safeguarded."
A police statement said authorities detained 72 people during an initial search for suspects. "They wanted to kill someone in uniform," said Stratos Mavroidakos, the head of a police officers' association.