Greek police have said that a convicted terrorist prisoner who had gone missing for almost a year was planning a major assault on a prison. His aim, they believe, was to free fellow convicted terrorists.
Greek police chief Dimitrios Tsaknakis told reporters in Athens on Sunday that investigators, who searched the safe house that Christodoulos Xiros used for most of the past year, had found detailed written plans for an armed assault on Korydallos prison in Athens.
Tsaknakis also said they found, among other things, eight Kalashnikov rifles, one grenade launcher, three handguns and a number of bags of explosives.
"The findings point to a big hit on the Korydallos prison, aiming to free prisoners. Based on notes we found, the attack would have taken place in the next days," Tsaknakis said.
The country's civil protection minister, Vassilis Kikilias, said the recapture of Xiros had "averted a terrorist attack."
Xiros, handcuffed, wearing a bulletproof vest, and escorted by a number of heavily armed police officers, was brought before a prosecutor on Sunday. According to the Reuters news agency, he faced new charges of running a terrorist group and possession of weapons.
Xiros, a former senior member of the now defunct November 17 Marxist guerilla group, had been declared missing by his lawyer on January 6, 2014 after he failed to report at a local police station near the northern town of Halkidiki.
Xiros had been granted nine days of leave from Korydallos to be with his family over the Orthdox Christmas holidays. Under the conditions of his leave, he was required to check in with police daily.
Police said on Saturday that they had arrested Xiros without incident in Anavissos, a coastal town just outside of Athens.
After examining the notes found at the safe house he had been using, officials said they believed he planned to use the assault on the prison to free fellow convicted terrorists.
Threat to avenge Greeks' pain
A few days after he had gone missing, Xiros released a video in which he criticized the Greek government's handling of the country's financial crisis, threatening to avenge the pain ordinary Greeks had suffered due to a raft of austerity measures.
Xiros had been convicted in 2003 in connection with half a dozen assassinations carried out by November 17 and was serving six life sentences in Korydallos, when he failed to return from leave.
November 17 is blamed for the assassinations of a total of 23 people, including British, US and Turkish diplomats, in more than 100 attacks carried out between 1975 and 2000.
Xiros is among more than 15 members of the group, thought to have disbanded in 2002, who have been convicted of various crimes, including homicide.
pfd/ipj (Reuters, AP, dpa)