Europe

Greek fugitive Christodoulos Xiros 'planned jail raid'

Christodoulos Xiros Image copyright AFP
Image caption Xiros appeared in court on Sunday to face charges of running a terrorist group and possessing weapons

A Greek left-wing extremist recaptured after a year on the run had been planning an armed assault to free inmates from a maximum security prison in Athens, police say.

Christodoulos Xiros, 56, of the Marxist militant group November 17, was arrested on Saturday in Anavyssos.

He went missing after being allowed out of jail in January to visit his family.

Police found a cache of arms and ammunition in his house in Anavyssos, including a grenade launcher.

The cache also had eight Kalashnikov rifles, three handguns, a silencer and explosives.

Police said they also found drawings of the planned attack.

'Major attack'

Police chief Dimitris Tsaknakis said: "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."

Image copyright None
Image caption Christodoulos Xiros at his trial in 2003 (left) and in police custody 3 January 2015 (composite image using photos from AP and Greek police)

Public Safety Minister Vassilis Kikilias said: "Greek police prevented a major attack against the heart of the Greek prison system."

Xiros, who was sentenced in 2003 to multiple life terms for his role in November 17, appeared in court on Sunday to face charges of running a terrorist group and possessing weapons.

While on the loose, Xiros had appeared in a video threatening armed action over austerity measures undertaken under Greece's international bailout.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Xiros appeared in a video last year criticising austerity and threatening violence

Photos released by Greek police show him with a beard and his hair grown long and dyed blonde.

The now defunct November 17 emerged in the mid-1970s and claimed a series of deadly attacks against foreign diplomats and Greek politicians and businessmen over nearly three decades, killing at least 23 people.

Greece, which has a huge foreign debt, has gone through years of austerity programmes mandated by the IMF-EU bailout.

The country is due to hold a snap election on 25 January. The left-wing Syriza party - which wants the terms of the EU-IMF bailout renegotiated - is leading in opinion polls.

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