Mary Bossis
(Assistant Professor of International Security, University of Piraeus)


The Riots of December 2008 and the emerge of new Terrorist Groups

Following the arrest of a number of 17N’s members in summer 2002, new terrorist groups made their appearance influenced by the spreading anti-globalization phenomenon. Using names like: ‘The Popular Revolutionary Action’, ‘Armed Revolutionary Action’ and ‘Revolutionary Struggle’, they applied their terror activity directly against targets associated with the state and its institutions. As the era of 17N was reaching its end the new trends of domestic political violence emerged following the events of December 2008, and the implications of the financial crisis. (Mary Bosis, 2011.) 

As it is well known in the history of terrorism a certain moment will be significant enough to ignite or reinforce the championing of the terrorists’ cause and consequently to reflect on their operational agenda. The killing of a 16 year old teenager by a policeman in December 2008 triggered a radically motivated operational environment. Thousands of youths, angered by the fatal police shooting, rampaged through Greece's largest cities for days. This period was characterized by riots, demonstrations, looting, damages to properties and street-fights between police forces and groups of youth. At the same time it gave a small number of extremists the chance to reunite, recruit and form new terror organizations.

The wave of violence further exacerbated the tense situation, with a wide pool of mostly young supporters reinforcing and expanding their ranks. It now became “legitimate” by such extremist individuals to call for the destruction of the Greek state with such a “collective belief system” resulting in their greater solidarity and recruitment success (Stanley Schachter, 1959). As new members joined these terrorist groups the older members would teach them a specified set of values and organizational routines that make violence easier to carry out as part of their new “collective loyalty” in order to bring about their utopian “future world” (Kent L. Ooots, 1989). 

Following the events of December 2008 numerous small terror groups appeared, for a short period and then disappeared or reappeared with a different name. Among many or smaller and short lived groups, the main representatives of this wave of new terrorist groups included: the Revolutionary Struggle, the ‘R.O. Conspiracy of Cells of Fire’(1) (CCF) and the ‘Revolutionary Sect’ which was the most lethal. Following the arrests of a number of them, the arrested members publish letters or e-books explaining their views about the society. It remains to be seen whether the groups will continue with new recruits or re-appear with new names and new tactics. The Revolutionary Sect, on the other hand, has claimed responsibility for the assassinations of a police officer and a journalist. Despite the fact that no one of its members has been arrested, the group has been inactive for the last years. These groups constitute the significant examples of the new wave of terrorism in Greece in the after 17N era.

At the same time neo-Nazi groups also emerged that clashed with the so called anarchist. Interestingly enough, they also share some elements of the same ‘ideological agenda’. Both extremist groups, agreed on ‘anti-capitalism’ or ‘anti-establishment’ themes which they used in their written documents.

The Characteristics of the New Terrorist Organizations in Greece

The new terrorist organizations (among others) target the state, its institutions and lately their phraseology includes the citizens, which they characterize as ‘enemies’. They embellish their rhetoric with references to past ideologies, or by copying the ideology of classical anarchic theory. The distinctive characteristics of the new terrorist organizations in Greece can be summarized accordingly:

a) Attributing political and ideological meaning to bank robberies, since banks are ‘stealing from society’. As terrorist organizations are socially constructed in opposition to state authority like their criminal counterparts, they claim to respect their society’s marginal elements. Thus, robberies or abductions of any kind are been framed as heroic acts against the regime’s status quo, while robbers and other criminals are viewed as heroes.

b) Possession of large quantities of explosives and weapons. Highlighting an alternative and oppositional belief system that rages against everything that represents the existing political system requires extensive quantities of arsenal in order to punish survive and dominate. In order to achieve these objectives has necessitated their cooperation with criminal elements to secure such weapons.

c) The use of abusive language in their communication and rhetoric against their adversaries that legitimizes their violence. Terrorism can be conceptualized as an extreme form of political dialogue between the terrorist group, its perceived client audience and the targeted state and its supporters, in which violent tactics are justified to redress their perceived grievances, regardless of the social costs and cycles of violence involved (G.D. Miller, 2007).

d) The use of Information and Communication Technologies to take advantages of new technologies. Like their international counterparts, the new Greek terrorist groups take full advantage of the latest technologies, which maximize their reach and coordination of activities within society and their European counterparts.

e) The spill-over effect and the creation of an international network. Several well coordinated violent incidents by anarchists in Greece, Italy, Spain, Britain, Germany and other countries including Seattle in America (‘Anarchist in the Pacific Northwest of the US’ Seattle, 03/30/2011), marked a new era in terrorist activity by such groups. It demonstrated the prospect of an international network in the process of formation, which they term ‘Informal Anarchist Federation’ (2). This international cooperation reveals the formation of an ‘undertow’ wave of likeminded individuals capable to form an international network. The use of internet-based communications plays an important role, allowing inclusion and contact in zero time, complementing it with coordination and action.

f) Although the number of women participating in these groups remains low, there is a small but steadily increase in comparison to previous years.

The Causes of the Revival of Terrorism in Greece

Looking at the causes (Isabelle Sommier, 2008 and Isabelle Sommier, 2006) of the revival of terrorism in both national and international level, we can identify a number of factors that partly explain this development in Greece:

National or domestic Level:

• Financial crises,
• Unemployment,
• Corrupted state officials and political scandals that include transfer of ‘grey’ funds and money laundering abroad,
• Inability of political parties to formulate clear political agendas and future vision that address the need of young population.
• Widespread social unrest causing factionalism that radicalizes large segments, which terrorist groups exploit (Paul Wilkinson, 1987).

International Level:

• The anti-globalization movements use in their rhetoric issues such as environmentalism, the animals’ rights, genetically modified food, nuclear energy, immigration, education, increased unemployment, border crossing restrictions and immigration flows, leading to the formation of groups with extreme or terror activity (P. Joosse, 2007),

• The uneven distribution of wealth which causes frustration and rage among disaffected,
• Mass media is regarded as biased ,
• The exploitation of cyberspace to communicate propaganda,
• Governmental antiterrorism measures and violent police actions they consider unjust.
• The global financial crises.

If terrorism presents a tactic which a number of individuals or groups choose to focus motivated by political, economic and social issues, they usually target the state in which they feel alienated or left behind. Much of the rhetoric in their communiqués mentions that the state failed to deliver on promises of economic prosperity or social justice.


1) About 200 attacks using artisan bombs were carried out under the name of the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire (CCF). The attacks targeted banks, government institutions, police stations, office of political parties, houses of politicians, judges, journalists, private security firms, and were always accompanied by proclamations with nihilistic claims of anarchist responsibility.

2) Evidence for the formation of such groups included the letter-bombs send to foreign embassies and heads of European governments in 2010 and early 2011. These included approximately 20 letter bombs sent to European capitals or embassies, some of them maiming the unlucky clerk who opened the packages. Most of them were sent by the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire and their Italian counterparts FAI, (Federazione Anarchica Informale) as part of their call for the formation of an Informal Anarchist Federation – International Revolutionary Front. Their counterpart organizations received the messages and welcomed the challenge to participate in expanding terrorist activity as a catalyst for societal change.


G.D. Miller, ‘Confronting Terrorisms’, Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 19, No. 3, Fall 2007, pp. 331-350.

Isabelle Sommier, ‘La menace terroriste: entre logiques experts et mobilizations des passions politiques’, in Anne – Marie Dillens (eds), ‘La Peur’, Brussels, Facultes Universitaires Sain-Louis, 2006.

Isabelle Sommier, ‘La violence revolutionnaire’, Presses de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, Paris, France, 2008.

Kent L. Ooots, ‘Organisational Perspectives on the Formation and Disintegration of Terrorist Groups’, Terrorism and Political Violence, No 12, 1989, pp. 139-152.

Mary Bosis, ‘The Dimensions of the “New Greek Terrorism”’, The Journal of Counter Terrorism, Vol. 17, No. 3, Fall Issue, 2011.

P. Joosse, ‘Leaderless Resistance, Ideology, and the ELF’, Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 19, No 3, Fall, 2007, pp. 351-368.

Paul Wlkinson, ‘Violence and terror and the extreme right’, Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 7, No. 4, Frank Cass, Winter 1995, London, pp. 82-93.

Stanley Schachter, ‘The Psychology of Affiliation’, CA: Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1959.

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