Counter-terrorism squad’s operation to arrest fugitive terrorist Nikos Maziotis in downtown Athens did not take place by accident, Public Order Minister Vassilis Kikilias told Mega TV on Thursday.
The minister said that police has launched an operation code-named “Theseus” in downtown Athens,which involves more than 800 officers. He also expressed appreciation on behalf of the prime minister to the counter-terrosism squad officer that was originally tailing the terrorist.
Kikilias said more developments are expected in the investigation, noting that a major operation is underway.
On Wednesday, the Counter-terrorism squad launched a search throughout Attica to track down the hideout used by fugitive convicted terrorist Nikos Maziotis, who was arrested in downtown Athens earlier the same day.
Sources within the police force said that the search was focusing on specific areas but also places that anti-establishment activists were known to frequent, as well as specific individuals that might yield clues regarding the identity of his accomplices.
Based on the account of police sources, meanwhile, the events leading up to Maziotis’ arrest started at around 12:30 in the afternoon when officers taking part in a police crackdown on crime, illegal hawking and illegal migration in the Thissio and Monastiraki areas of Athens were ordered to make their way to a shop selling camping equipment on the corner of Athinas and Agia Irene streets, in order to check out a “suspicious individual”.
This turned out to be the fugitive terrorist Maziotis, who had been on the run since July 2012 and was convicted as a terrorist in absentia, wearing a wig as a disguise and carrying a handgun. The wanted terrorist had alighted in Monastiraki from the Athens metro and entered the shop, though it is unclear if he intended to shop something or simply avoid police flooding the area due to the operation that was underway.
Acting on orders, the police officers ordered Maziotis to surrender as he was leaving the shop but instead he turned and fired on them, prompting the start of a shootout. At one point, the terrorist got into a taxi in an attempt to flee but became trapped in traffic, so he left the taxi and attempted to run for Mitropoleos Street. There was a second shootout with police near Kapnikareas church, where Maziotis and one of the police officers in pursuit were injured.
The special guard, who was participating in the ‘Theseus’ operation and was in the group that pursued the fugitive, was shot in the leg and taken to the 401 Army Hospital. The injured special guard received a visit in hospital from Kikilias and the chief of police earlier on Wednesday.
The minister then visited a 19-year-old Australian tourist, who was also injured in the fray and taken to Erythros Stavros Hospital to have shrapnel removed from his leg. A German tourist who suffered very minor injuries in the shootout was given first aid but declined to be taken to hospital. Maziotis was shot in the shoulder and taken to Evangelismos Hospital, where he remains under heavy guard.
Police are now hunting for his partner Pola Roupa, who also violated the terms of her release from custody and fled with Maziotis 21 months earlier. Both had been imprisoned on remand pending trial and released after the maximum 18-month period for detention on remand had expired.
Counter-terrorism squad detectives also managed to find the taxi driver whose taxi Maziotis had used in his attempt to escape, tracking him down in the west Athens district of Peristeri.