ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Police investigating the slaying of two members of the far-right Golden Dawn party and the serious wounding of a third person said Saturday the assailant finished off his victims at point-blank range before escaping on a motorcycle driven by an accomplice.
The shooter fired 12 rounds from a Zastava Tokarev semi-automatic pistol in the Friday evening attack outside a suburban Athens office of the Nazi-inspired party. The bullet casings came from the same weapon, which has not been used in any previous case, police said in a statement.
The shooting came amid a government crackdown on the party following the fatal stabbing in September of an anti-fascist musician in Athens. A Golden Dawn supporter has been arrested and charged with murder in that case, though the party has denied any wrongdoing.
A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because officers were not authorized to comment on the investigation, described to The Associate Press a video from a nearby security camera that confirmed accounts from Golden Dawn lawmakers that the assailant started firing from 15 meters (yards) away and finished off his victims at close range.
The gunman fired at a fourth, person, who managed to enter the building housing Golden Dawn’s local offices in the suburb of Neo Iraklio, north of Athens, escaping unharmed.
The video shows the assailant wearing a jockey cap, while the motorcycle driver was wearing a helmet, the official said.
A second official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said police found an abandoned motorcycle north of the site of the attack, which “almost certainly” was the one used by the assailants. The motorcycle had been declared stolen two weeks before and is being examined by forensic experts.
The names of the two dead have not yet been officially released, but they were named at a memorial service held Saturday evening outside the Golden Dawn offices where the attack took place.
They are 27-year-old Giorgos Fountoulis and 22-year-old Manolis Kapelonis. Golden Dawn has said that both were party members, but has called the wounded 29-year-old man “a fellow citizen.”
Golden Dawn spokesman and lawmaker Ilias Kassidiaris said “the souls of Giorgos and Manolis are guiding lights” for the whole country.
“The Greek people will remain united, and together will keep on moving forward during this difficult and critical period our homeland is going through,” he said.
The police’s counterterrorism squad is investigating the case. Suspicion has fallen on one of several far-left and anarchist extremist groups that have claimed to be behind violence that has killed two policemen and a journalist. No group has yet claimed responsibility.
Golden Dawn lawmakers blame the murder on authorities’ prosecution of party members, including the jailing of the party’s leader and deputy leader following last month’s killing of a left-wing rapper. The outcry following the murder has prompted authorities to investigate the party’s involvement in violent attacks and criminal activities.
Eleni Zaroulia, a lawmaker and wife of jailed Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos, accused Public Order and Citizen Protection minister Nikos Dendias of being “the moral instigator” of the two Friday murders. “Golden Dawn demands his resignation,” she told reporters on her way to a police precinct near her home, where she surrendered her gun.
Formerly a marginal organization with neo-Nazi roots and a reputation for violence, Golden Dawn had polled just 0.29 percent in a national election in 2009. It rode a wave of public anger over Greece’s financial crisis, rising crime rate and unchecked immigration to become the country’s fifth largest party.
It has steadily grown to third place in recent polls, although support has slipped since the prosecution of its leaders.
Srdjan Nedeljkovic and Raphael Kominis contributed to this report.
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