ATHENS – A drive-by shooting killed two members of Greece’s Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn party and wounded one outside a party office in Athens on Friday night, in what officials are treating as a likely far-left domestic terrorist attack.
The government and opposition parties — all who have long ostracized Golden Dawn as a group of neo-Nazis — quickly condemned the attack, which the left-wing main opposition Syriza said “targets democracy” in Greece.
The two victims, aged 22 and 27, were shot at close range from a motorcycle carrying two men, Golden Dawn lawmaker Georgios Germenis said.
“A man got off a motorcycle wearing a helmet and shot them,” he said, adding the attack was captured on a security camera at the party office in Athens’ Neo Iraklio suburb.
A third man, aged 29, was taken to hospital with severe gunshot wounds.
The shooting occurred amid a government crackdown on Golden Dawn following the Sept. 17 fatal stabbing of an anti-fascist musician in Athens. A Golden Dawn supporter has been arrested and charged with murder. The party’s leader and two of its lawmakers have been jailed pending trial on charges of forming a criminal group, and another six stripped of immunity from prosecution.
The party has denied any wrongdoing, and none of the leadership has been charged with any direct connection to the killing.
Golden Dawn, which rose from obscurity during Greece’s financial crisis, won 18 of parliament’s 300 seats in last year’s elections and is now polling as the recession-plagued nation’s third most popular political party.
Police said no arrests were made and the counterterrorism squad has taken over the investigation. There has been no claim of responsibility, but Greece still has active far-left and anarchist extremist groups that have claimed a string of shootings and bombings that killed two policemen and a journalist.
“We are examining every possibility, but the indications are that it is a terrorist attack,” a police official said on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to be quoted publicly.
Golden Dawn lawmaker Nikos Michos said the attack was “clearly an execution.”
“The terrorism of the left has once again shown its face, to stop the rise of Golden Dawn,” he said.
A statement posted on Golden Dawn’s website said the victims were shot at again after they fell injured to the ground.
“They literally emptied their weapons on them,” it said.
Police said they recovered 12 bullet casings from the crime scene, although it wasn’t clear what kind of a firearm was used.
Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias expressed “distress” at the fatal shooting of the two young men Friday. “We will not allow the country to become a ground for the settling of accounts, for whatever reason,” he said.
Germenis said the violence occurred right after police stopped protecting the office where the attack occurred.
“The government stripped us naked so that we can be killed,” he said. “We had received threats at that office, and we informed the local police station. They had plainclothes police outside the office every day until today.”
Golden Dawn is a nationalist group with neo-Nazi roots and a barely-concealed fondness for Nazi symbolism, literature and anthems. But it strongly denies the neo-Nazi label, highlighting its nationalist and anti-immigrant agenda in a country that has for years faced waves of illegal immigration.
Greek lawmakers voted last week to suspend state funding for political parties accused of criminal activities, a measure targeting Golden Dawn, and the government is planning to toughen laws against hate speech and outlaw Holocaust denial.