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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-11-07

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From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] 25 detained in special forces raid on Zoniana

  • [01] 25 detained in special forces raid on Zoniana

    More than 25 suspects were detained during the course of raid begun early on Wednesday morning by special forces police in the lawless village of Zoniana in the highlands of Iraklio on Crete. They were held for a variety of offences, including illegal possession of weapons, explosives and small quantities of drugs.

    A major operation that involved the participation of 75 heavily armed and armoured special forces (EKAM) police got underway at 7:15. These descended on the village assisted by local police, bringing the total number of officers participating in the raid to 130.

    During the course of the operation, police set up road blocks and conducted house-to-house searches to look for drugs and weaponry, as well as evidence that would lead them to the identity of the gunmen that ambushed a police convoy conducting a drug raid on Monday, in which three police officers were shot and injured, with one of them left in critical condition.

    They were also assisted by sniffer dogs, two helicopters flying overhead and special forces police stationed on the slopes around the village and the foothills of Mount Psiloreitis, while the operation was coordinated by the chief of police and the southern Greece police inspector.

    In an official announcement, police asked journalists and TV crews stay out of the village in order to preserve a calm climate during the raid, requesting the cooperation and understanding of the media.

    Very few residents were out and about during the morning, with most preferring to stay home. All roads leading into and out of the village were guarded and every vehicle or person going through these road blocks was thoroughly checked.

    Initially, the search was concentrated on three houses linked to a young man arrested in connection with drugs offences in Iraklio last Friday. These were followed by searches in farms, sheds, houses and shops in which small quantities of drugs were found. Also found and confiscated were a number of weapons and ammunition, though the quantity has not yet been announced.

    Meanwhile, the search for hashish plantations in the wider area of mountainous Mylopotamos is still continuing.

    Earlier this week, the government vowed to crack down in order to restore law and order in Zoniana, where drug barons have been allowed to operate with relative impunity for several years.

    Commenting on the operation, Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias stated that the government is determined to solve the problem in the region of Zoniana, stressing that ?the state has to return to Zoniana and Zoniana to the state."

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said that the problem in Zoniana was a "reality" that the State was handling it with the proper bodies, namely the Greek police.

    Regarding the presence of TV crews and journalists at the raid, the spokesman rejected suggestions that the State had encouraged a media presence on the scene, pointing out that the media were free to go or stay away as they pleased.

    Roussopoulos was also asked to comment on why the operation was carried out two days after the shooting on the police convoy, so that the culprits would have a chance to cover their tracks. The spokesman simply noted that a large number had been detained as suspects and pointed to last week's arrest of a suspected leader of a group of outlaws.

    To questions about the village's exclusion from the Kapodistrias laws for municipal mergers, Roussopoulos admitted that the area had lacked a properly founded administration and that this was one of the problems that had arisen with the first 'Kapodistrias' law.

    He strongly rejected rumours, however, that outlaw elements in the village had enjoyed political protection at a high level.

    "I do not believe there is an MP in the Greek Parliament that does the things that you mentioned earlier in these accusations," Roussopoulos underlined, while rejecting the entire line of inquiry as "lacking seriousness".

    Caption: Special forces (EKAM) police with heavy body armour and sub-machine guns descended on the lawless village of Zoniana in the highlands of Iraklio, Crete on Wednesday, 07 November 2007, for a large-scale raid involving hundreds of officers. The operation was launched to uncover illegal drugs and weapons in the village, as well as evidence leading to the identity of gunmen that had shot and injured three police officers, one of them critically, during the ambush of a police convoy carrying out a drug raid the previous Monday. ANA-MPA/Stefanos Rapanis.

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