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Greek leftist group claims bomb targeting minister

Written by: Staff
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ATHENS, June 7 (Reuters) A Greek radical leftist group claimed responsibility today for last month's bomb attack against Culture Minister George Voulgarakis, who narrowly escaped, police said.

The Revolutionary Struggle group said the aim of its May 30 attack was to assassinate Voulgarakis for his role in two scandals that hurt the centre-right government during his term as public order minister.

The remotely detonated bomb planted near the minister's home was intended to kill him as he was going to work. It wrecked cars and shattered windows in central Athens but caused no injuries and missed Voulgarakis, who was still at home.

''We wanted to kill Voulgarakis,'' the group said in a pamphlet sent to a Greek weekly newspaper, To Pontiki, which passed it on to police. The paper comes out tomorrow.

Voulgarakis, 46, had been public order minister until February and his move to the Culture Ministry during a government reshuffle was widely seen as a demotion due to his handling of a phone tapping scandal that shocked Greece.

The minister also faced claims by 28 Pakistani immigrants, who said they were abducted and tortured by Greek authorities at unknown locations after last year's London suicide bombings. He denied their story but prosecutors ordered an investigation.

The multi-page pamphlet, dropped in a garbage can near the newspaper's offices, said Voulgarakis was involved in both scandals, police said. They gave no more details.

''All democratic Greek citizens condemn unequivocally actions of raw violence against our society and democracy,'' government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros told reporters.

Revolutionary Struggle has emerged as Greece's most dangerous urban guerrilla group since the capture of members of the deadly November 17 group shortly before the 2004 Athens Olympics.

The group claimed responsibility for a bomb at the Economy Ministry in central Athens last December which wounded two people and damaged buildings. It staged a bomb attack against a police station three months before the Olympics.

Several small leftist and anarchist groups still operate but their attacks usually cause no injuries and only minor damage.

Police said the attack against Voulgarakis was carefully planned and executed, showing the work of a more serious group.

The perpetrators strapped 2-3 kg (4-7 pounds) of dynamite to a bicycle near a car and set it off from about 30 metres (yards).

Voulgarakis was also targeted in 2003, when he was an opposition conservative New Democracy party deputy. A gas canister bomb destroyed cars parked under his building.

REUTERS SHB BST1943

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