ATHENS (AFP) – Greek authorities on Friday were trying to determine how a near-defunct militant group was able to sneak at least two parcel bombs through airport security, one of which exploded at the IMF offices in Paris.
The investigation so far suggests that the booby-trapped mail sent to the IMF and the German finance ministry — presumably by a far-left group called the Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei — failed to raise an alarm because it contained only a small amount of gunpowder.
“The analysis so far… is that it was a small amount of gunpowder of the same type used in firecrackers…there was no detonator,” Greek police minister Nikos Toskas told Skai TV on Friday, citing evidence from investigators in France and Germany.
“Clearly they are from the same source, the same organisation… the leftovers of the Nuclei”, which was dismantled by the police in 2011, he added.
Toskas defended the screening procedures at Athens airport, saying the equipment was recently purchased from Germany and is “the best in Europe”.
“The main screening is done before the plane is loaded, and this is where our investigation is focused,” he said, adding that there was “no sign” that additional parcels were sent.
The Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei is “likely behind” the Paris attack, a Greek police source told AFP, adding that French investigators had told their Greek counterparts that the letter was sent from Athens.
Separately, a source close to the French inquiry said it was focusing on “an anarchist group”.
Fragments of Greek stamps were found at the IMF offices where the mail bomb exploded, injuring a secretary’s face and hands.
Citing police sources, the Greek daily Avgi said the intended recipient was the IMF’s Europe director, Jeffrey Franks.
In a further twist, the names of two senior officials in the conservative New Democracy party of Greece were used as the alleged senders.
Toskas acknowledged that the incidents would require a “re-evaluation” of procedures in Greece and abroad.
IMF chief Christine Lagarde denounced a “cowardly act of violence” and said the fund would continue its work “in line with our mandate,” a statement from her office said.
– History of violence –
The Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei has claimed responsibility for the explosive device, also sent from Greece, that was discovered by the police at the offices of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.
The package was discovered on Wednesday, a day before Schaeuble was due to host his new US counterpart, Steven Mnuchin.
The outfit did not comment on the IMF hit.
Many Greeks blame Germany and the for imposing years of public-sector cuts and policy overhauls in exchange for bailout packages needed to prop up the debt-ridden country.
The group, which is considered a terror organisation by Washington, sent mail bombs to foreign embassies in Greece and to European leaders in 2010.
The organisation denounces capitalism and consumerism, as well as police repression and worker exploitation.
Police say the name “Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei” had been used as cover by urban militants carrying out minor arson attacks against car dealerships and police vehicles since the middle of the last decade. But their activities escalated starting in early 2008.
In 2011, several of its members, many of them very young, were convicted of “participating in a criminal organisation” and given long prison sentences.
But three years later the group announced its return and has been committing sporadic attacks since then.