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Greece's Domestic Terror Spills Beyond Its Borders

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Greece's Domestic Terror Spills Beyond Its Borders


Greece's Domestic Terror Spills Beyond Its Borders

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Today, Greece ordered a suspension for 48 hours of any mail and packages headed out of the country. That's after 14 parcel bombs were sent from Greece to foreign governments and embassies.

Two Greek men in their 20s have been arrested, and authorities say this case is not linked to the bombs that were mailed from Yemen last week.

NPR's Sylvia Poggioli has the story from Athens.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: There has been only one casualty since Monday, when a courier employee was slightly injured when a bomb exploded in her hands. But the explosive parcels have triggered international concern.

Most mail bombs were sent to targets in Greece, but two were sent to the leaders of Germany and Italy, and both were intercepted.

Investigators say none of the devices examined so far contained lethal amounts of explosives, unlike those used by Yemeni militants. And authorities say the mail bombs are purely domestic.

Brady Kiesling, a former U.S. diplomat who studies Greek political violence, says the mail bombs are part of a symbolic action, not aimed at causing harm.

Mr. BRADY KIESLING (Former U.S. Diplomat; Author, " Diplomacy Lessons: Realism for an Unloved Superpower"): The anarchists are very much anti-state in any form. Embarrassing the government of Greece is something they're happy to do. It's very much a response to acts of police and government repression, you know, quote-unquote, of anarchists.

POGGIOLI: Greece has been living for six months under extremely tough austerity measures imposed by the government of Prime Minister George Papandreou to deal with the country's huge debt. And hardly a day goes by without a street protest.

Achilles Peklaris, political correspondent for the alternative weekly The Athens Voice, says Greece is accustomed to domestic violence by the young.

Mr. ACHILLES PEKLARIS (Political Correspondent, The Athens Voice): Some of them throw stones. Some of them throw Molotov bombs. Some of them go squatting buildings. Some of them make package bombs. It's something, I would call it uniquely Greek.

POGGIOLI: The roots of Greek anarchism go back to the civil war in the 1940s and reaction to the military junta in the '70s, which sowed the seeds of a polarized society. In recent years, Greece has been rocked by youth riots against perceived police brutality. And today, youth unemployment is running at over 30 percent.

Peklaris says a traditional diffidence toward the central state has increased with the revelation of widespread political corruption.

Mr. PEKLARIS: This is the fuel of terrorism in Greece, that people do not trust the Greek state. They hate the police. And whoever turns against them is going to be liked by a big part of public opinion.

POGGIOLI: Observers say a traditional benevolence shown by Greek society toward violent protests against the state has been deepened by the economic and social crisis.

This will make it even harder for authorities to crack down against the anarchist groups believed to be behind the mail bombs. But the government has vowed it will be merciless with the militants.

Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Athens.

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