Explosives found behind Athens Olympic stadium

Posted: Monday, August 05, 2002

ATHENS, Greece -- Anti-terrorist police found a small quantity of explosives Sunday buried near a landmark 19th century marble stadium scheduled to be used in the 2004 Olympics.

The horseshoe-shaped stadium -- a major tourist attraction -- was also the site of the first modern Olympics in 1896.

The discovery is part of efforts to topple the once elusive November 17 terrorist group in Greece. But it was not immediately clear whether the cache belonged to November 17 or other smaller Greek urban guerrilla cells, police said.

One hand grenade, detonators and a small quantity of dynamite were buried in a shallow pit on a hill overlooking the all-marble stadium. The venue is scheduled to be the finish of the marathon during the 2004 Olympics and could host other events.

Security at the 2004 Games is a major concern for organizers who plan to spend a record $600 million on making the Olympics safe. Athens has faced international criticism for previously failing to deal with the deadly urban guerrilla group.

Fifteen suspected members of November 17 have been arrested since a bungled bomb attack injured one of its alleged operatives in late June.

But police are continuing a major sweep against the group amid fears of retaliatory action from members still at large.

November 17 is blamed by police for 23 killings and scores of bomb and rocket attacks in support of its extreme Marxist and nationalistic agenda. The group -- which first emerged in 1975 by gunning down the CIA station chief in Athens -- is named for the day in 1973 when military rulers crushed a student-led protest.

The group's last victim was British defense attache Brig. Stephen Saunders in June 2000.



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