Policemen cover from the rain, a bag used by Nikos Maziotis after a shootout at the tourist area of Monastiraki in central Athens. Picture: Thanassis Stavrakis


Athens - Greek police on Wednesday said they had captured far-left extremist Nikos Maziotis - one of the country's top fugitives - after a shootout in central Athens.

“Nikos Maziotis has been arrested,” a police source said, adding that a police officer had been injured in the shooting near the tourist district of Monastiraki.

According to early reports, two male tourists - a German and an Australian - were also lightly hurt in the exchange of fire, the police source said.

Maziotis himself, a leading member of defunct militant outfit Revolutionary Struggle, was more seriously injured, state television Nerit reported.

“I saw a man being taken away with his hands behind his back, he was bleeding profusely,” a witness told reporters at the scene.

“I believe he was wearing a wig,” she added.

Media reports said Maziotis was armed with a handgun and a grenade, which he threw at the police but failed to explode.

Maziotis, 42, and his companion Panagiota Roupa - also a one-time member of Revolutionary Struggle - had been conditionally released from prison in 2012 and subsequently disappeared.

They have a four-year-old son who was born in an Athens hospital a few months after his parents were imprisoned in 2010.

Revolutionary Struggle, which first emerged in 2003, was once deemed by authorities to be the country's most dangerous far-left organisation and is on EU and US lists of terrorist groups.

The United States put a bounty on the group after it fired a rocket at the US embassy in Athens in 2007 without injuring anyone.

Other strikes include a bomb attack on the Athens Stock Exchange and several banks, and attempted assassination attempts against police and a former police minister.

Greece has seen a resurgence in extremist activity at a time when the country is struggling to emerge from a crippling six-year recession.

In December, unknown attackers fired automatic rifle shots at the German ambassador's residence in Athens without causing any injuries.

In November, two members of neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn were fatally shot outside an Athens district office, and another was seriously injured.

In January, a prominent member of Greece's deadliest extremist group November 17, Christodoulos Xiros, disappeared while on prison leave. He remains at large. - Sapa-AFP