Saturday, May 8, 2010

British diplomat shot dead in Athens Car

BBC, Thursday, 8 June, 2000, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK

The shooting took place close to the diplomatic quarter
A senior British diplomat has been shot dead in his car in the Greek capital, Athens.

Military attache Brigadier Stephen Saunders was rushed to a local hospital in a serious condition, but died later of his injuries.

Greek police are now virtually certain the killing, by two gunmen on a motorcycle, was carried out by left-wing guerilla group November 17.

Ballistic tests revealed that the gun used had been used by the group in past attacks.

November 17 has killed 23 people, including Brigadier Saunders, since it first appeared in 1975. None of its members have been caught.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair described the killing as an act of terrorism which was contemptible as well as senseless.

The act is not only condemned by the Greek Government but by all the Greek people

Greek FM George Papandreou:
"[Brigadier Saunders] was a consummate professional who had served his country with distinction both at home and overseas.

"His murder is a reminder of the risks that British military personnel face in many places around the world," he added.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said he was "shocked" by the shooting.

Greek Police
Police gather evidence close to the scene of the shooting
"I am in touch with the Greek authorities and am offering them our full co-operation in making sure that whoever perpetrated this brutal attack is brought to justice," he said.

The two gunmen opened fire on Brigadier Saunders around 0800 (0500 GMT) as the British official drove a white Rover belonging to the embassy along Kifissias avenue in a northern suburb.

It appears that the car the Brigadier was driving was not bullet proofed.

Brigadier Saunders, 53, who was married with two children, suffered four gunshot wounds to the abdomen, the hospital said.

Guerrillas suspected

The gunmen fled and there has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

November 17 group
Founded in 1975
Roots in resistance to former junta
Opposes Greek links with West
Has admitted to 21 killings
"The method used, the weapon used, lead us to believe that the assailants belong to November 17, that is the direction we are looking in," said Dimitris Efsthathiadis, a senior official in the Ministry for Public Order.

Police said they found four spent cartridges at the scene from a .45-calibre pistol, the weapon used by the November 17 group in about 20 assassinations attributed to the group since 1975.

Shadowy group
Brigadier Stephen Saunders
Born: Farnborough, Hants in 1947
Married to Heather
Daughters: Nicola, 15 and Catherine, 14
1965: Joined army
1967: Commissioned into Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment
1968-71: Read geography and economics at Bristol University
1986: Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, serving in N.Ireland, Australia, Papua New Guinea and Kuwait
1999: Promoted to Brigadier and appointed defence attache to the British Embassy in Athens

The November 17 group targets western officials and economic targets. Its first victim, in 1975, was the CIA station chief in Athens.

None of its members has ever been arrested and convicted.

The US State Department has recently criticised the Greek authorities for failing to stop terrorist attacks.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou has condemned the attack and pledged that his government would combat terrorism relentlessly.

"I want to condemn this terrorist act. The act is not only condemned by the Greek government but by all the Greek people," he said.

08 Jun 00 | Europe
November 17 group: Small but deadly
08 Jun 00 | UK
Diplomatic life behind bullet proof glass
Internet links:

British Foreign Office
Greek Government

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