Youths wreck banks, businesses in pre-dawn Athens attacks

December 13th, 2008 - 9:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Athens, Dec 13 (DPA) Hooded youths firebombed banks and businesses in pre-dawn attacks across Athens Saturday in the eighth day of civil unrest triggered by the shooting of a 15-year-old boy by police.Angry youths hurled firebombs at four banks in the southern Athens suburb of Paleo Faliro as well as a supermarket, the offices of newly privatised telephone company OTE and the local party offices of the ruling conservatives.

One more bank was reportedly torched in central Athens.

The riots, which have spread to all corners of the country, have been the worst in decades, destroying hundreds of shops, banks, buildings and cars in more than eight cities across Greece, including Athens and the port cities of Thessaloniki and Patras.

Gangs of hooded youths and self-styled anarchists have been smashing windows, looting shops and setting up flaming barricades in streets across the country.

The violence was triggered by the police shooting of a 15-year-old boy Dec 6, but students have also been protesting growing corruption and economic and education reforms.

In contrast to days of violence, hundreds of classmates of the gunned teenager, together with their parents, held a peaceful rally in front of parliament in Athens Saturday.

The city centre appeared to return to normal, with shops open and cafes filled with customers, after having undergone days of destruction.

Municipal workers could even be seen attempting to decorate the main sqaure of Syntagma for the upcoming festive holidays after a massive tree and Christmas village were damaged by protesters.

Officials said similar rallies were being held elsewhere in Athens and in the northen port city of Thessaloniki and the city of Hania on the southern island of Crete.

On Friday, students clashed with police in Athens. More school students were expected to mobilise in central Athens for further rallies Monday. Students occupied more than 400 school buildings across the country in protest.

Although police have reacted when attacked by firebombs, they have held back when youths turned their rage against buildings and cars.

A gang of hooded youths Friday even pushed their way into and caused severe damage to the offices of Alexis Cougias, the defence lawyer of the policeman accused of shooting the 15-year-old. No one was reported injured.

Many countries have issued warnings not to travel to Greece while the popular sites of Plaka and Monastiraki, located in the shadows of the Acropolis, were eerily empty of tourists.

Offcials said tourism had gone down 50 percent. The Acropolis itself was closed due to striking workers.

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