Terrorist plot in Greece reported to be thwarted: first comments on operational questions – by Maria Chr. Alvanou

Greek law enforcement authorities have announced that they have dismantled a terror network planning to conduct attacks in Greece[1].  According to media reporting on the subject, 2 men of Pakistani origin have been arrested as part of a terror network whose head is also Pakistani organizing the criminal activities from Iran. Additionally, targets seem to include a Jewish restaurant in the center of Athens (operating also as a synagogue) where the attack would take place either with the use of guns or gas (exploding the target)[2]. It is reported that the two accused men were arrested for not having proper documents and they were living in Greece for 4-5 years[3]. Their smartphones and laptop were confiscated and they seem to have been talking about money for carrying out the attacks, bargaining their fee according to every victim (10.000-15.000 euros) and the total number of the dead[4], while they are described as “professional assassins” with no ideological involvement[5]. Greek authorities seem to have been assisted by Israeli Secret Services with information they got from them linking the local network with Iran[6]. Israel has thanked Greece for thwarting Iranian terrorism[7]. The two accused persons are facing serious charges[8] and as the research continues the following first comments could be made regarding operational parameters of the case reported:

  1. We do not have yet the ideological character, typology and scope of the organization/group or network behind the alleged attacks. Things are still blur, at least based on what has leaked to the media. The choice of target could be signaling antisemitic character or anti-Israeli (which is not the same thing). In any case the use of paid, professional assassins who are not at all ideologically involved at all is puzzling and must be further researched. It is not fitting the usual modus operandi e.g. of Islamist groups who base recruitment on radicalization. This is more the way criminal organizations that have nothing to do with terrorism work. Also if Iran is behind these plots in the framework of attacking Israel wherever abroad, the use of agents could be a more effective and trustworthy choice.
  2. Targeting a Jewish restaurant and synagogue in Athens could harm of course Israeli tourists in Greece, yet the immediate and first target would be Greek Jews in Greek soil. As such, the attacks would be against Greece. This makes things perplexed again related to the reported lack of ideological motivation. If the attack was antijewish/antisemitic then it points more towards Islamist networks, that would use radicalized perpetrators targeting indiscriminately jews. If the attack is supported by Iran, then it means that Iran has decided to be directly and openly hostile against Greece. It should be noted that there has been tension between Greece and Iran for the cases of seizures of Greek ships by Iran and an Iranian Ship by Greece[9] as well as because Greece has supported the U.S. in the case of killing Soleimani[10]. It should also  be noted that in Cyprus a plot with Pakistani perpetrators (and an Azeri) against Israeli targets was thwarted in 2021[11], so such a precedence should be taken into account.
  3. If the alleged perpetrators managed to enter Greece and live for 4-5 years in the country with fake documents and undetected, this raises a very important issue about homeland security. Whether they were hired by an Islamist or other group or Iranian circles (at the present stage it is better not to rule out anything, even if patterns do not seem to match certain “employers”), does not change the fact that they were hired because their criminal capabilities and activities, as well as their readiness to commit serious crimes like murders were known. How they have stayed undetected and whether in these 4-5 years they have been involved in other crimes is something that should be researched and is a matter of concern.
  4. Greece has entered an election period (that was announced on the same day these arrests were announced[12]) and security is always an important factor for voters to take into account. The planned attack against a Jewish restaurant- place of worship with the possibility of large number of victims reminds the attack against a Jewish supermarket in |Paris in 2015[13]. It is an operational terrorist choice Greeks are not very accustomed with, despite the long history of terror attacks the country has faced. Indiscriminate and mass casualty attacks would open a new page for Greek terrorism and the way citizens perceive security and their need to be protected from mass attacks and indiscriminate victimization. Security is of utmost importance, and it should be faced by all political parties during this electoral period with seriousness keeping it out of petty politics debates.

Justice will research thoroughly the accusations and if they are proved they will reveal a very interesting new case of organized violence in Greece and security threat, whatever its typology may be. Antisemitism has been worryingly on the rise in Europe[14] and anti-Israeli terrorism has troubled European authorities since decades ago. Islamists have targeted European countries with indiscriminate attacks and Europe has started to link Iran with terrorist activities (even through segments of the Revolutionary Guards)[15]. Exactly which from the above regards this case and Greek contemporary security threats remains to be seen.

[1] https://www.news247.gr/koinonia/eglima/elas-exarthrothike-tromokratiko-diktyo-poy-schediaze-epitheseis-stin-ellada.9988224.html

[2] https://www.kathimerini.gr/society/562343698/exarthrosi-tromokratikoy-diktyoy-schediaze-epitheseis-se-stochoys-stin-athina/ , https://www.kathimerini.gr/society/562343698/exarthrosi-tromokratikoy-diktyoy-schediaze-epitheseis-se-stochoys-stin-athina/

[3] https://www.protothema.gr/greece/article/1354725/htupima-se-evraiko-estiatorio-stou-psurri-etoimazan-oi-pakistanoi-tromokrates/

[4] https://www.in.gr/2023/03/28/greece/tromokratia-poioi-einai-oi-dyo-pakistanoi-tromokrates-pou-tha-xtypousan-israilino-estiatorio/



[7]https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/03/28/greece-terrorism-arrests/fc8e5904-cd78-11ed-8907-156f0390d081_story.html, https://www.ethnos.gr/greece/article/253178/tromokratiamesyndromhthsisrahlinhsmosanthexarthroshtoypyrhnapoyetoimazextyphmaseebraikoestiatorio, https://greekcitytimes.com/2023/03/29/mossad-pakistani-terrorists-greece/

[8] https://www.skai.gr/news/greece/xtypima-elas-se-tromokratiko-diktyo-pou-sxediaze-epitheseis-stin-ellada-pou-stoxeyan

[9] https://www.reuters.com/world/iran-urges-greece-cooperate-over-seized-ships-without-us-role-2022-05-31/

[10] https://greekreporter.com/2020/01/12/iran-furious-with-greece-over-support-for-soleimani-killing/

[11] https://www.iranintl.com/en/20211104839016

[12] https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/greece-hold-national-election-may-21-pm-2023-03-28/

[13] https://www.france24.com/en/20200921-paris-terror-attacks-trial-recalls-terror-and-cruelty-of-kosher-store-rampage

[14] https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-9-2022-001839_EN.html

[15] https://www.ft.com/content/49545fc1-e318-43c9-9bfd-142a4c3b65e4