Following an explosion at the Athens’ Mall, the country’s largest shopping center, the American Embassy there put out an emergency message warning Americans in the country to be careful and avoid the area and for Americans planning to visit Greece to be aware of a growing danger of violence. There have been a spate of attacks directed against political and other targets in recent weeks.
A bomb went off inside the popular mall about 10:53 a.m. on Jan. 20 and slightly injured two security guards and caused extensive damage, authorities said. Media outlets said they received a call warning the device had been planted about an hour before it went off, allowing time for evacuation. Retail outlets are not allowed to open in Greece on Sundays but there were about 200 people inside as cafeterias and a multi-plex cinema was open.
Police said they hadn’t yet received any claims of responsibility but the U.S. Embassy advised Americans not to go to the mall although it re-opened later the same night although the crime scene was still cordoned off. The warning stated: “We encourage all U.S. citizens to review their personal security plans, remain aware of their surroundings, including local events, monitor local news stations for updates, and report specific incidences of targeted violence to the U.S. Embassy in Athens or the U. S. Consulate General in Thessaloniki.”
It added that, “U.S. citizens should maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance their personal security,” and advised would-be travelers or tourists to Greece to refer to the Embassy’s manual, A Safe Trip Abroad, giving information on international travel and to enroll in the Department of State’s State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. That makes it easier for officials to contact Americans in foreign countries.
Greeek police said that CCTV footage from The Mall in Maroussi suggests that four people were involved in planting the device. According to reports, officers have identified four people wearing hoods or baseball caps who are thought to have left the bomb in a newspaper stand. Police believe that as many as eight people in total may have taken part in the attack.
Remnants of a pressure cooker were found in the wreckage created by the bomb, which is thought to have contained ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (ANFO) and gelignite. The urban guerrilla group Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire has carried out attacks using pressure cookers to construct explosive devices in the past but authorities are not making any direct connections at this point.
The Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court, is expected to rule in the next few weeks on whether The Mall, whose retail space covers some 60,000 square meters, was unlawfully constructed. It is owned by one of Greece’s richest men. Anarchists and other terrorist groups have been known to target banks, luxury car outlets and the wealthy or symbols of capitalism.