British diplomat killed in Greek terrorist ambush

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Suspected terrorist gunmen have killed Britain's defence attache in a roadway ambush that police believe could be the work of Europe's most elusive urban guerrilla group November 17.

Suspected terrorist gunmen have killed Britain's defence attache in a roadway ambush that police believe could be the work of Europe's most elusive urban guerrilla group November 17.

The victim, identified in media reports as Brig. Stephen Saunders, was shot in the head and chest as he drove to work, authorities said. He died about 3 1/2 hours later, hospital officials said.

If a terrorist link is established, Greece could come under severe international pressure for a massive crackdown. U.S. officials have repeatedly accused Greece of ineffective counter-terrorism measures against incidents ranging from frequent bombings and arson strikes to killings blamed on November 17.

The spotlight is also on Greece to develop a security plan for the 2004 Olympics. The shooting of the British diplomat occurred near the main stadium for the games.

According to police, two men on a motorcycle fired at the car on a main avenue connecting the capital's northern suburbs to the city center.

Public Order Ministry General Secretary Dimitris Efstathiadis said the attack bore the hallmarks November 17 and police are "investigating in this direction."

November 17, which follows a mix of Marxist and ultra-nationalist ideologies, has claimed responsibility for 21 slayings since 1975. The group's victims include four Americans, including a CIA station chief. No known member of the group has ever been caught.

The attackers used a .45 caliber weapon - a trademark of November 17, which takes its name from the 1973 student-led uprising against the military junta that ruled Greece from 1967-74.

The last slaying claimed by November 17 was in May 1997 when Greek shipowner Constantinos Peratikos was gunned down leaving an office.

The site and method of the Thursday attack was almost identical to other November 17 killings: a 1983 ambush that killed U.S. Navy Capt. George Tsantes and his driver and the 1988 slaying of Greek publisher Alexandros Athanassiadis.

The group has never targeted a Briton, but has claimed responsibility for bomb attacks against British banks and other sites.

In 1998, November 17 took credit for a series of rocket attacks at foreign targets in the Athens area, including a branch of the U.S.-based Citibank. Last year, it issued a communique challenging authorities to "come and get us."

In Washington, a report last week by a Congressional commission proposed sanctions on Greece and Pakistan for "not cooperating fully" in the battle against terrorism. The State Department described Greece as "one of the weakest links" in anti-terrorism efforts in Europe.

The Greek government has repeatedly rejected the U.S. criticism.

Foreign Minister George Papandreou said it was not clear whether the attack had any link to the recent U.S. pressure.

"At this time the only thing we can do is condemn the act and say we will not let the international image of the country be plagued," he said.

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