Greek police are calling the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Athens early today a "terrorist attack."
Officials say it looks like homegrown Greek terrorists are responsible for the attack, not Islamic militants, as initially feared. A left-wing militant group called Revolutionary Struggle has reportedly claimed responsibility, and police are investigating the claim.
Today's attack was the third in the past year on U.S. Embassies and consulates around the world. Witnesses said a rocket hit the front of the embassy, narrowly missing the soaring eagle emblem. The anti-tank shell smashed through the window of a third floor bathroom near the ambassador's office just before 6 a.m. local time. No injuries were reported.
"There was no injuries, no one was hurt, minimal damage," said Charles Reis, U.S. ambassador to Greece.
Vulnerable Without Exclusion Zones
Police believe the shell was fired from a Russian-made launcher at street level.
"It's always going to be possible if you cannot establish exclusion zones around a building to have people attack it with mortars, improvised rockets or even ready-made rocket launchers," said security analyst Charles Shoebridge.
The U.S. embassy in Athens was also hit by a rocket in 1996, and in 1988 the U.S. Naval attaché in Athens was assassinated. Left-wing Greek radicals were behind both attacks.
The U.S. ambassador said today's attack was unexpected.
"But the embassy is, of course, always guarded carefully as we guard our embassies all over the world," Reis said.
Shadow of the 1998 Embassy Attacks in Tanzania and Kenya
Since the devastating attacks on U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, security has been particularly tight. But the attacks have continued.
In Syria last September, there was a brazen assault on the U.S. Embassy that included grenades, a fire fight and a car bomb that failed to detonate at the gates.
The major threat to most U.S. Embassies around the world comes from Islamic militants. But Greek officials fear this morning's attack could be the first sign of a resurgence of left-wing terror in the country, which they thought they had crushed with a wave of arrests before the Athens Olympics in 2004.