Ides of March: Parcel bombs and the Greek export of terrorism in Europe – by Maria Chr. Alvanou

March 15, 2017: a package with an explosive mechanism mailed from Greece and addressed to german minister Wolfgang Schäuble was detected by german authorities. The name of a prominent New Democracy (main opposition party) parliament member and ex-minister was written on the package as “sender”.  The anarchist-extremist organization “Conspiracy of Cells of Fire” (CCF, in Greek: Συνωμοσία Πυρήνων της Φωτιάς, ΣΠΦ) claimed responsibility of the operation and while it did not yet issued a manifesto, it published the following short text in an antiestablishment website[1]:

“Nine years after the first appearance of the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire in January 2008. After more than 300 attacks against targets of domination that resulted in destructions of tens of million Euros and the transfer of fear in the camp of power.
After more than 60 arrests of comrades and others, over the years, who have been accused as our members and thousands of years of prison imposed on them.
After so many times that ministers and police chiefs declared in the media that they have succeeded to “dismantle” us and that “the CCF finished”. After the inclusion of CCF in lists of “terrorist” organizations of the State Department in the US and of Europol in the EU…. We continue even louder.
By creating an international conspiratorial network of F.A.I. cores and CCF in dozens of countries that have carried and continue to carry out guerrilla attacks. With even greater passion and tenacity to strike structures and also persons of the power system.
Always against social apathy. Always against the tyrants of our lives. They still can not understand that the CCF is an idea and that the Idea can not be imprisoned because it is like the Lernean Hydra. For each comrade in prison, new comrades are ready to take his place and continue on the path of the attack.
We still have the rage …
We claim the sent of the parcel bomb to the Minister of Finance of Germany in the context of the campaign of the second act of the Project Nemesis. The manifesto will follow in the coming period.
Comradely greetings to the direct action groups of F.A.I. in Chile and in Greece for their contribution to the Project Nemesis. Revolutionary greetings to the comrades of F.A.I. In Italy and the captive members of CCF in Greece who continue unrepentant …
Let us go forward to the Black International of the anarchists of action.
Nothing ended
Αll continues
Conspiracy of Cells of Fire/ F.A.I.”

March 16, 2017: another package with an explosive mechanism mailed from Greece arrives at the International Monetary Fund offices in Paris and exploded injuring mildly an employee[2]. According to media information[3], the recipient was meant to be Jeffrey Frans, the Director of the IMF. The name of another prominent New Democracy parliament member and ex- minister (of the Protection of Citizen Ministry) was written on the package as “sender”. While it is speculated that the same organization is behind this hit, no official claim has yet been published.

The above operations bring to surface another face of terrorism that is not often discussed today. Because of the recent past attacks in Belgium, France and Germany perpetrated in the name of Daesh, it seems like islamist extremism is perceived almost as synonymous with the danger of a terror operation in Europe. Experts and officials talk about radicalization as the fertile ground upon which the tree of extremist violence grows, having in mind religious radicalization and islamist brainwashing. But while jihadists seem to be monopolizing the interest of those who deal with security threats[4] in Europe, there are also far-left/anarchist/anti-establishment groups that are quite ready and potent to launch attacks on european soil. And some of them, while based in one european country, do not hesitate to spread their wings of actions to other european countries too.

Terrorism in Europe has a long history that refers to ideological groups and a radicalization that has to do with social conflict and political ideologies that justify violence as a means to fight against the political establishment. Though the famous traditional political extremist groups of the ‘70s and ‘80s (mainly of far-left ideological character) have ended their campaign of terror, a new generation has appeared. This new generation has anarchist ideological orientation and -still- less terroristic “glamour” (compared to their predecessors or the current islamist extremists), but there is serious potential in its threat dynamics. This is definitely true for Greece, where 17 November as such was dismantled and new groups appeared, following in general terms its legacy. The Conspiracy of Cells of Fire is not 17 November. How it is organized, works and uses its rhetoric differ. The ideology is linked to anarchism and the manifestos have a language that tries to approach the average Greek, avoiding difficult ideological concepts that could be understood only by affiliated persons (like in the old times). Still, a careful eye can detect signs of the 17 November heritage, especially in how this new organization has been ready to cooperate with noted members of the old organization[5].

Sending parcel bombs (with the explosive mechanism hidden inside a book) is a “signature hit” for CCF, as we have witnessed already in 2010. Apart from 8 parcel bombs sent to foreign embassies in Athens, parcel bombs were mailed to reach abroad European leaders like Angela Merkel, Nicola Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi (in this last case the italian aircraft carrying the parcel had to do an emergency landing in Bologna, so that the explosive mechanism could be deactivated by the authorities)[6].

The recent terrorist attempt to hurt Wolfgang Schäuble, though practically unsuccessful, marks a strategic and tactical success for CCF. The organization has already been listed as terror group in international official lists (which for the organization is perceived like a “badge of honour”) and once again it is able to export terror abroad gaining publicity. CCF becomes a transnational and transeuropean “player” in the sense that it launches operations that start from Greece and get completed abroad, in other countries. Actually the mailing of a bomb to be exploded in another country constitutes the classical law school example to explain a transnational criminal act, with different locations of the activity and thus also different legal jurisdiction to prosecute it.

Since propaganda is a main component of terrorism, the message of the attack in Germany should be analyzed as if targeting a double audience: one in Greece, where the organization has adopted the role of defending the rights of the Greeks against the Europeans and the Germans imposing harsh and unbearable measures during a long lasting economic crisis, and one in Germany where political leaders should beware of the revolutionary and resistance activity of the group. Should the second attack, against the IMF, prove to be also of CCF, then the organization is sending its message widely to any international financial structure engaged in the enforcement of financial measures upon greek people.

While there is no justification for violence and terror, organizations like CCF use the impoverishment and suffering of the Greeks as an alibi for their extremist action. It should be understood that all propaganda starts with a grain of truth. The financial problems of Greece, as well as its long lasting institutional weaknesses, that affect the lives of its people are a reality.  Τo effectively counter terrorism- apart from police operations to arrest terrorist and foil attacks- there is a need to solve the problems that feed the rhetoric of groups and create pools of sympathizers, supporters, even future recruits-members of terrorist groups.

CCF chooses no only to operate in Greece, but also to export terror. It does so participating in a”network” of other like-minded groups that operate in Europe.  The organization has ties with FAI in Italy and Chile. Also, there is a “triangle” of anarchist and far-left extremist groups in Greece, Spain and Italy[7] that cooperate in various levels. As CCF links itself to FAI even in the text claiming responsibility for the operation in Germany, we should not exclude the scenario of a european campaign of extremist violence. After all FAI- especially in Italy- has proved to be capable of such activity[8]. In addition, it is not only the immigration and refugee issues that mediterranean countries (notably Italy and Greece) share, but also the financial crisis. The countries of the european south not only have a weakened economy, but they also suffer from what is described often as a hegemonic attitude shown by the strong economies of the european north. As the economic crisis and the resulting frustration continue, we could be seeing further radicalization in the countries of the european south; a radicalization that has nothing to do with religion, but is connected to the search of economic survival (a very “secular” basis of human reaction).

According to the above, we should indeed once again “beware the Ides of March”. The March 15 CCF hit against Wolfgang Schäuble is not just another operation of a Greek extremist group and it is not of greek domestic interest. This could be signaling the start of a coordinated extremist campaign against the political and financial infrastructure of Europe. Next to the jihadists, another network of extremist cells can become a security danger and threaten personally the lives of those leading the political and economical scene of Europe.

[1]    Τhe text taken from the article about the attack, and translated by the author.
[3]    Ibid.
[4]    The incident at the Orly airport in Paris, while still under investigation, surely is an example.
[6] .
[7],, citing also the author’s view on the matter.
[8] .