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Scotland Yard to train Greek police hunting British attache's killers


June 15, 2000
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Scotland Yard to train Greek police hunting British attache's killers

The Guardian (London) -- Greece is to enlist the help of Scotland Yard counter-terrorism experts in an attempt to unearth November 17, the elusive group behind last week's assassination of the British embassy's military attache, Brigadier Stephen Saunders, in Athens. Senior members of Greece's 300-strong anti-terrorist squad are to fly to London next month to be trained in the sort of skills that have enabled Scotland Yard to track down IRA gunmen, it was revealed last night. "There have been connections between our two police forces in the past but now they are going to intensify greatly," the public order minister, Michalis Chrysohoidis, said. "The British are very, very good. They're very practical and they can show us things, give us seminars." A senior official at the ministry said all counter-terrorism officers would attend training. "We realise we have a very se rious problem and we really want to crack it, so we're going to take up the British offer," he said. "Scotland Yard knows what we need, it's got one of the best records in the world." The decision not only ends years of viewing outside help with suspicion, but highlights official embarrassment over the diplomat's murder. Brig Saunders, whose body will be flown home today, is the first Briton to be killed by November 17. The group said it had targeted the defence attache because of his role in Nato's "barbaric airstrikes" against Yugoslavia last year. The Ministry of Defence denied he had any role in planning the attacks. No member of November 17, an ultra-leftist urban gang without any clear political objective, has been captured or identified in the 25 years since it emerged with the slaying of Richard Welch, the CIA station chief in Athens. Brig Saunders was its 23rd victim. Despite almost all of Athens' 15,000-strong police force be ing seconded to the job, no progress has been made in tracking down the two men who fatally shot the soldier in a ride-by assault as he drove to work last Thursday. For the first time, investigators have failed to find the assassins' motorbike, which could, they say, provide critical DNA evidence. On the suggestion of three Scotland Yard counter-terrorist officials already in the capital, Greek police are considering an appeal for people to come forward with information. "But," said one government insider, "that sort of thing is not so easy here because people still have very bitter memories of the dictatorship and being an informant has very strong associations even if it's for the good of the country and is very effective." Greece said it would also discuss other ways of fighting terrorism with Britain on a European Union level at a meeting of foreign ministers in Luxembourg today. Under renewed pressure from Washington, the ruling Socialists have also said they will improve the country's anti-terrorism legislation by introducing witness protection and doing away with juries in terrorist cases. Such steps were taken in France, Italy and Germany - countries that wiped out their own terrorist groups in the 70s and 80s. Many Greeks are concerned by the re-emergence of November 17, four years before Athens hosts the Olympics, and fear it may affect tourism, Greece's economic mainstay. "The Greeks understand that this murder has been very very bad for the image of the country," said Mary Bossi, a specialist in political violence. "There's been a real change of heart from the official level downwards. Before, there may have been a silent acceptance of November 17 but now people have had enough. They have begun to see this phantom group as a very big problem that has to end."




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