The capture of one of Greece’s most wanted men in a shootout in the heart of Athens on Wednesday has been hailed as a breakthrough for law enforcement.
After two years on the run, Nikos Maziotis, the self-professed leader of Revolutionary Struggle, Greece’s most dangerous urban guerilla group, was seized on a busy street following a gun battle in which he was shot.
The terrorist was wearing a wig when police attempted to apprehend him outside a store near Ermou, downtown Athens’ most popular shopping area.
“The success of the police today … will have multiple benefits for Greek society, as much on a political level, such as the image of the country abroad, as on a social and economic level,” said minister of public order Vassilis Kikilias.
As security officials homed in, Maziotis fired off eight bullets, injuring a policeman and two tourists – an Australian and a German – who were caught up in the chase as he attempted to flee the scene.
By late Wednesday, the Greek ministers for health, public order and tourism had all visited the 19-year-old Australian in hospital – the first holidaymaker to sustain gun wounds in Greece in years.
Doctors said the man, who was shot in the foot, was not in critical condition and is likely to be discharged later in the week.
The German, who was lightly injured, refused hospital care to continue with a cruise around the Greek isles.
After undergoing surgery for a gunshot wound to the shoulder, Maziotis was under around-the-clock armed guard at the Evangelismos hospital in central Athens.
Until January this year when Christodoulos Xeros, – a convicted November 17 member – walked away from parole, Maziotis was Greece’s most wanted man. Along with his wife and partner in crime, Panagiota Roupa, the terrorist eluded police after authorities were forced to release the pair at the end of 18 months in pre-trial detention.
The far-left Revolutionary Struggle, which took up the mantle of November 17 after the group was unmasked in 2002, had claimed responsibility for a number of attacks, including most recently a large car bomb outside the head offices of the Bank of Greece.
Timed to coincide with the debt-stricken country’s return to international markets in April, the explosion caused considerable damage although no injuries. In 2007 the group attacked the US embassy in Athens by firing an anti-tank grenade at the building.
Both Maziotis and Roupa were sentenced to 50 years in absentia last year.
With Revolutionary Struggle believed to be planning other hits – following a volley of threats printed in the local press – authorities last night said they had been hunting both for Roupa and the hide-out the couple are believed to have made their home in Athens.
Releasing a copy of the identity card found on Maziotis at the time of his arrest, police said he had gone by the name of Michalis Michelakis during the two years he had spent on the run – using the persona to rent the property and hide in plain sight.