March 26, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 93  

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Athens drops bomb on terrorism

Gazette file photo
IT’S A FREAKIN’ SHOULDER PATCH, COME UP WITH YOUR OWN TEASER. Things got hot in Hotlanta in 1996. Athen’s security, however, is doing all they can to avoid a similar attack.

ATHENS (AP) — Greece completed its main Olympic security exercise after simulating a chemical attack and hijackings in a test involving American commandos.

The exercise, dubbed Shield of Hercules 2004, included top security officials from the United States, Britain and Israel. It was held March 10 to 23 without media access because of heightened international concerns about terrorism.

The drill tested Greece’s response to a wide range of threats, including bombings and communication system failures, the public order ministry said Wednesday.

“The exercise was successful ... and demonstrated that international co-operation is the strongest weapon against any threat against the safety of the Olympic Games,” a ministry statement said.

Ministry officials declined to comment on Greek media reports that parts of the exercise were disrupted by poor communication between the country’s security and civilian agencies.

Ten of the government’s 19 ministries were involved in the exercise for the Aug. 13-29 Olympics.

The exercise, the seventh held for Olympic security, was the first major test for Greece’s new conservative government, which was elected March 7, ending 11 years of socialist rule.

The exercise included approximately 1,500 Greek personnel, 400 U.S. commandos and experts from Britain, Canada, Germany and Israel. Observers from Russia and China also attended.

Urgency was added by the March 11 terrorist train bombings in Madrid, Spain, and Israel’s killing Monday of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, spiritual leader of the terrorist group Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings. Greece increased security at Israeli and Jewish sites after Yassin’s killing.

Top military and police officials from the participating countries visited Athens during the drill. They included the commander of U.S. naval forces in the Mediterranean, Vice Adm. Henry Ulrich; CIA counterterrorism chief Jose Rodriguez; and Britain’s top anti-terrorism official, David Vennes.

The United States, Britain, Israel and four other countries are helping Greece with massive security preparations. The effort will cost more than $800 million US and involve more than 50,000 police, soldiers and other personnel.

Greece has asked NATO to help patrol its airspace, share intelligence on potential terror threats and increase Mediterranean naval patrols.

Greek opposition parties have criticized that request, claiming direct alliance involvement could increase the likelihood of a potential attack by Islamic militants.



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