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Revolutionary Nuclei

Revolutionary Nuclei

YEAR ESTABLISHED OR BECAME ACTIVE: 1995

ESTIMATED SIZE: less than 100

USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: Greece, primarily the Athens metropolitan area

OVERVIEW

The Revolutionary Nuclei is a relatively new group. Its first terrorist activity was reported in 1996. The group is thought to be an offshoot of the terrorist group Espanastatikos Laikos Agonas (ELA). The ELA reportedly targeted various government entities in Greece. It also claimed responsibility for numerous attacks against U.S. establishments in Greece. Like its predecessor, the Revolutionary Nuclei (RN) is also thought to have similar ideologies and objectives.

On account of its reported attacks against the United States and Greek establishments, the U.S. Department of State has categorized RN as a terrorist organization in 1997. It was again added to the list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2000 and 2001. The group is also known by many other names. Some of these are Revolutionary Cells, Revolutionary Popular Struggle, and ELA.

HISTORY

The Revolutionary Nuclei is thought to be the successor of the more prominent Espanastatikos Laikos Agonas (ELA), which was formed in Greece in 1975. ELA was allegedly formed with the aim of resisting the military government in Greece that existed at the time. The group claimed that it was against "capitalism," and "imperialism."

Experts state that the ELA also turned its attention to anti-American activities. Reports indicate that the cause of such a shift was due to U.S. support for the military regime in Greece. ELA, during the late 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s claimed responsibility for hundreds of bombings throughout Greece. These included Greek government targets as well as those owned by Americans in Greece.

According to U.S. government officials and monitor groups, the last known attack by the ELA occurred in 1995. Shortly after this, the group is thought to have been disbanded. Experts allege that most members of the ELA formed a new group in 1995, known as the Revolutionary Nuclei.

The Revolutionary Nuclei reportedly has similar views as the ELA. Since 1996, the group has allegedly carried out dozens of bombings and arson attacks, again on Greek government establishments as well as businesses and offices owned by American institutions based in Greece, mainly around the Athens area. Analysts state that the years 1997–1999 saw maximum operations carried out by the group. The most prominent attack by RN came in 1999, when members of the group set off a bomb at the Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel in Athens. At the time, the hotel was to hold an international economic conference by Leon Brittan, Vice President of the European commission. The bomb killed a Greek woman and injured an employee of the hotel. Considerable damage was reportedly done to the building.

Apart from the above, there have been many other similar attacks during this period. In 1996, the group claimed responsibility for bombing of a branch office of Citibank in Athens. According to news reports, the bombing did not kill or injure anyone and caused minor structural damage to the office. In the same year, members of RN are thought to be behind the attack on a travel agency in Paris, which arranged group tours to Denmark. The attack was allegedly carried out as a protest against the imprisonment of a fellow extremist in Denmark. Some experts dispute that the attack was carried out by other terrorist groups affiliated to the RN.

The year 1998 saw numerous terrorist attacks in Greece. Most of these were attributed by government officials to Revolutionary Nuclei and 17 November, another terrorist outfit operating in Greece. In June, the group was suspected behind the bombing of the office of the Supreme Council of Personnel Selection—a Greek government organization. A month later, members of Revolutionary Nuclei claimed responsibility of bombing another government entity, the ASEP, or Civil Service Employment Agency (the state agency responsible for public employment in Greece). Both these attacks caused structural damage to the buildings. No one was killed or injured.

Later in 1998, the RN shifted its focus to American establishments. Two bombs exploded within a short timeframe at two different offices of American Express in Piraeus, Greece. The subsequent year also saw a few attacks carried out by the group. The group also claimed responsibility for bombing a Texaco gas station in Athens. Like all their other attacks, there were no casualties reported.

LEADERSHIP

NOT KNOWN

The terrorist outfit Revolutionary Nuclei is thought to be a small group of less than 100 members. Not much has been reported or written about any of its leaders. Unlike other terrorist organizations, no member of the group has reportedly made claims of leading the Revolutionary Nuclei.

Interestingly, news reports, anti-terrorism experts, and government officials have not mentioned any names of masterminds of various terrorist attacks carried out by the Revolutionary Nuclei. The group is thought to be secretive about its members and other issues such as total strength and funding.

In early 2000, the RN claimed responsibility for bombing a Greek mining and metal company, METKA. Later in the year, police authorities were reportedly able to prevent a bomb attack on the office of Stavros Soumakis, a minister with the Greek government. The last reported attacks by the group occurred in November 2000. On November 12, 2000, three bombs exploded within a short time of each other. The first bomb exploded in the studio of a Greek-American sculptor in Athens. The other two exploded shortly after the first bomb, one at an office of Citibank, and the other in the office of Barclay's (a British bank).

In subsequent years, there were no attacks reported or claimed by Revolutionary Nuclei. However, during this time, activities by other terrorist organizations such as 17 November that are thought to be affiliated with the RN increased. After 2000, Greek police officials arrested people suspected to be members of Revolutionary Nuclei and other terrorist outfits.

Most experts allege that members of Revolutionary Nuclei have joined other prominent terrorist organizations since 2000. The group was thought to have disbanded in the early 2000s. However, in 2003, a bomb at the Insurance Company Alico reportedly caused the police to look at Revolutionary Nuclei again. According to published reports, the bomb strongly resembled bombs used by members of the RN in the past. The group did not claim responsibility. In contrast, during this period there were other bombings and arson attacks that were claimed by the Revolutionary Nuclei. The Greek police have reportedly disputed these claims.

Greek government and police officials also reportedly received threats from the RN and other such groups before the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Experts claim that such threats would suggest that the group is alive and is planning more attacks in the future.

PHILOSOPHY AND TACTICS

The Revolutionary Nuclei is thought to be an offshoot of the Espanastatikos Laikos Agonas. As analysts suggest, the Revolutionary Nuclei shares the same beliefs as the ELA. These include views of anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism. Although, the ELA was reportedly formed to resist the military government in Greece in the 1970s and 1980s, even after the fall of the military junta, the ELA and later the RN continued their activities against the Greek government.

The Revolutionary Nuclei is also known to be anti-American. Experts maintain that the group's anti-American sentiment is mainly due to U.S. policies of imperialism, especially those in Iraq and Yugoslavia. The group reportedly has a few members and not much is known about any of the leaders or masterminds behind the attacks carried out.

KEY EVENTS

1995:
The last reported attack by ELA carried out; the Revolutionary Nuclei, an offshoot of the ELA is thought to have been formed at this time.
1996:
Members of the RN reportedly carry out their first attack by bombing Citibank in Athens.
1997:
The group is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State.
1998:
Many more bombings claimed by the group, including attacks on Greek government buildings.
1999:
Bomb explodes in the Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel in Athens during an international economic conference. The attack claimed by the RN kills one person and injures another, the only instance of human casualties among all attacks attributed to the group.
2000:
The last reported attack by the group occurs on November 12. The group is thought to have dismantled after this attack.

According to news reports, the group engages in bombings and arson attacks. Almost all of their known attacks use advanced weapons such as time bombs. Since its inception in 1995, the group has targeted buildings owned by the Greek government and U.S.-owned offices, businesses, and banks. Experts state that the main objective of the group is to cause structural damage to buildings and property and not kill people. Apart from the attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in 1999, where one woman was killed, no other reported attacks by the Revolutionary Nuclei have caused death or major injuries.

One of the strategies group members have reportedly employed for every attack is to call the news media and warn them about an impending attack. Every attack has been preceded by a call by someone claiming to be a representative of the Revolutionary Nuclei, informing the media about the place of attack. In some cases, according to news reports, the Greek police have been able to successfully evacuate the building or office before the bomb explodes. Similarly, the group is also thought to have sent letters to the press after every attack. The letter usually states the purpose of the attack. Anti-terrorism experts and monitor groups assert that these make the point that the main purpose of the Revolutionary Nuclei's terrorist activities is to cause structural damage to government- and U.S.-owned buildings rather than kill people. As has been reported, all bombings by the group have occurred either late at night or early in the morning. There have no reported incidents of bombings during the day.

The group's tactics involves calling or sending letters to the press after an attack, stating the purpose of the attack. For instance, shortly after the attack on the Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel in Athens, members of the press received a letter allegedly from the Revolutionary Nuclei. The hotel was host to the Third Economist Roundtable with the government of Greece Conference. This was an annual conference and, the day of the attack, Leon Brittan, the Vice President of the European Commission, was scheduled to hold a conference. The letter stated that the objective of the bombing was to protest against the NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia. Reportedly, the air strikes faced considerable criticism in Greece. A number of anti-war rallies were also held at the time.

Similarly, a person claiming to be a member of the group called up the press after the attack on an American Express office in 1998. Apparently, the attack was in response to "the criminal NATO coalition that bombed Iraq." A call made to a radio station after the bombing of a building that accommodated the Supreme Council of Personnel Selection (a Greek government organization that is responsible for education and employment related policies) claimed that the bombing was due to the "unfair" practices employed by the government while hiring teachers. All other attacks were reportedly carried out in the same manner, with each bombing preceded and followed by phone calls/letters to the media.

The last reported attack by the Revolutionary Nuclei was in late 2000. Greek officials claimed afterwards that they had been successful in eliminating the group. However, since 2003, there have been contradictory reports in the media about the existence of the group. Anti-terrorism experts and monitor groups claim that the group, although it has not claimed responsibility for any attack after 2000, is still active. According to news reports, the 2004 Summer Olympics held in Athens had unprecedented security due to alleged threats received from various terrorist organizations operating in Greece, including the Revolutionary Nuclei. Additionally, in 2003, a bomb explosion in an insurance company was also thought by police authorities to be the work of RN members. These attacks and threats are thought to be acts of resistance against the U.S-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Revolutionary Nuclei, throughout its period of existence, has been associated with other terrorist organizations operating in Greece. Some of these include 17 November, May 1, and Popular Revolutionary Action. However, none of the alliances have been confirmed by the group itself or by government and police authorities. The news media have suggested that various terrorist activities are being jointly organized by members of the RN and other groups. Some reports also claim that the organization has links with known international terrorist, Carlos the Jackal. These are unconfirmed.

Monitor groups, anti-terrorism experts, and Greek and U.S. government officials are also not clear about the funding sources of the Revolutionary Nuclei. According to news reports, police investigations have not revealed funding from any sources, as is the case for many terrorist organizations around the world. The group is thought to be self-sustaining, with some donations from locals.

OTHER PERSPECTIVES

U.S. government officials as well as Greek government officials have repeatedly condemned various acts of terror organized by the Revolutionary Nuclei. Reacting to the bombing in the Intercontinental Hotel in Athens in 1999, Greek officials called it a "murderous act of terrorism."

The Prime Minister of Greece at the time, Costas Simitis, strongly condemned the actions of the Revolutionary Nuclei and the attack on the hotel. He stated "that the government would do its duty," and called on the Greek people "to resist and condemn such phenomena which were counter to the country's interests." He added, "those who use such methods maintain that they supposedly condemn violence, but they use blind violence or kill innocent citizens, and the bottom line is that they use violence as a means of destabilising the country's political life and democratic form of government."

The bombing was allegedly carried out as a protest against the NATO bombings in Yugoslavia. Reacting to this, the Prime Minister said "such actions harm the Greek people, the country's interests, the economy and tourism, aspiring to more tension and a climate of blind hate. Such practices, however, do not stop the bombings against Yugoslavia."

Greece's opposition leaders, as well as other world leaders, have also condemned terrorist acts by the group. Leaders of the main opposition party in Greece, in a public statement after the attack on the hotel in Athens, said "We express our abhorrence over yesterday's blind terrorist hit, which had human victims. We reiterate our complete support for every action of the police authorities in effectively tackling terrorism. It is necessary, with the common effort of all of us, to permanently neutralise the criminal action of terrorists, which harm the country's interests."

According to other officials, members of the RN intended to "impose their views through barbaric methods."

The U.S. government has also reportedly denounced activities of the Revolutionary Nuclei and has designated it as a terrorist organization. They have, however, also been critical of the way the Greek government has handled such activities. In 2001, the U.S. government stated that the government of Greece "has not yet arrested or convicted those terrorists responsible for attacks conducted by revolutionary Organization 17 November (17N) or Revolutionary Nuclei over the past two decades."

In 2001, the United Kingdom also added the Revolutionary Nuclei to its list of terrorist organizations with a purpose of freezing its funds and assets. Soon after designating the RN (and others) as terrorist organizations, United Kingdom Chancellor Gordon Brown commented, "Those named have committed or pose a real risk of committing or funding acts of terrorism." He added, "Those who finance terrorism are as guilty as those who commit it … we will do whatever is necessary to deprive terrorists of the funds they rely on. Just as there is no safe haven for terrorists there is no safe hiding place for their funds."

SUMMARY

The Revolutionary Nuclei has reportedly had a short period of existence. It is thought to have formed in 1995, as an offshoot of the ELA, another Greek terrorist organization with the same philosophies and ideologies. Throughout the late 1990s, the group claimed responsibility for several low-intensity bombings as well as arson attacks, mainly on Greek government-owned structures as well as offices of American businesses.

Most attacks caused structural damage to buildings, but there were no human casualties. Greek government officials and anti-terrorism analysts are of the opinion that the group has been effectively taken apart after 2000. However, as news agencies have reported in 2003 and 2004, the group may still be alive and poses a threat to the security in Greece.

SOURCES

Web sites

BBC News. "World: Europe: Bomb Rips through Greek Hotel." 〈http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/330024.stm〉 (accessed October 4, 2005).

The Athens News Agency. "Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-04-28." 〈http://www.hri.org/news/greek/apeen/1999/99-04-28_1.apeen.html〉 (accessed October 4, 2005).

CDI Terrorism Project. "In the Spotlight: The Revolutionary Nuclei (RN)." 〈http://www.cdi.org/terrorism/rn-pr.cfm〉 (accessed October 4, 2005).

BBC News. "UK Expands Terror Funds List." 〈http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/1635382.stm〉 (accessed October 4, 2005).

MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base. "Group Profile: Revolutionary Nuclei." 〈http://www.tkb.org/Group.jsp?groupID=100〉 (accessed October 4, 2005).

SEE ALSO

17 November Organization

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