A reproduction of '17 November' logo that appeared on their proclamations
|Dates of operation||1973-2002|
|Leader||Alexandros Giotopoulos, Dimitris Koufodinas|
Revolutionary Organization 17 November (Greek: Επαναστατική Οργάνωση 17 Νοέμβρη, Epanastatiki Organosi dekaefta Noemvri), (also known as 17N or N17) was a Marxist urban guerrilla organization (characterized as a terrorist group by the Greek State and international law enforcement) formed in 1973 and believed to have been disbanded in 2002 after the arrest and trial of a number of its members. During its heyday, the group assassinated 23 people in 103 attacks on U.S., British, Turkish and Greek targets. Greek authorities believe spin-off terror groups are still in operation, including Revolutionary Struggle, the group that assumed responsibility for a WASP 58 rocket propelled grenade fired at the U.S. Embassy in Athens in January 2007.
The group's name, 17N, refers to the final day of the 1973 Athens Polytechnic uprising, in which a protest against the Greek Military Junta (1967–1974), also known as the Regime of the Colonels took place. The uprising ended after a series of events that started when a tank took down the main gate of the Polytechneion and security forces, including soldiers, stormed the campus. 17N self-identified as Marxist. In addition to assassinations, 17N was convicted for a number of bank robberies. Members of 17N claim they stole money to finance their activities.
17N's first attack, in December 1975, was against the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's station chief in Athens, Richard Welch. Welch was gunned down outside his residence by three or four assailants, in front of his wife and driver.
The terror group expanded beyond attacking U.S. targets by striking at center-right Greek personalities and NATO personnel. Although Greeks were targeted, distaste for the U.S remained a central theme. For example, after the 1983 slaying of Nikos Momferratos, a note was found near his body stating that Greece "remained a puppet regime in the hands of the American imperialists and the economic establishment."
In addition to its anti-American agenda, the group was also opposed to Turkey and NATO. In total, 17N has conducted 19 attacks against U.S. targets, 9 against Turks, and dozens more against US interests. However, the majority of the 103 attacks carried out between 1975 and 2002 were directed against right-of-center Greeks and Greek companies.
One of 17N's most prominent assassinations was that of New Democracy member Pavlos Bakoyannis, who was shot at close range in downtown Athens in September 1989. Other victims included Captain George Tsantes Jr., United States Navy officer and head of JUSMAGG (Joint United States Military Aid Group to Greece), and his Greek driver, both shot while driving to work; Nikos Momferratos, the publisher of conservative newspaper Apogevmatini, shot in Athens; Captain William Nordeen U.S.N., whose car was destroyed by a car bomb a few meters from his residence, as he drove past it on 28 June 1988; U.S. Air Force Sergeant Ronald O. Stewart, who was killed by a car bomb outside his residence on 12 March 1991; Çetin Görgü, Turkish press attaché, shot in his car on 7 October 1991; Ömer Haluk Sipahioğlu, a Turkish embassy official, shot on an Athens street on 4 July 1994; Anglo-Hellenic shipping tycoon Constantinos Peratikos, shot leaving his office on 28 May 1997 and Brigadier Stephen Saunders on 8 June 2000
In many instances, the group used a .38 caliber pistol retrieved from a policeman killed in 1984, or a .45 M1911 handgun, which came to be regarded as their signature weapon. While face-to-face assassination was their early modus operandi, the group later used rockets and bombs stolen from Greek military facilities. Over 50 rocket attacks were claimed by 17N, starting with an attack on a Greek police bus in which 14 were wounded and 1 killed.
After their inaugural attack on the CIA station chief, the group tried to get mainstream newspapers to publish their manifesto. Their first proclamation, claiming the murder of Richard Welch, was first sent to "Libération" in Paris, France. It was given to the publisher of "Libération" via the offices of Jean Paul Sartre, but was not published. After subsequent attacks, 17N usually sent a communique to the Eleftherotypia newspaper. The group argued in its communiques that it wanted to rid Greece of U.S. bases, to remove the Turkish military from Cyprus, and to sever Greece's ties to NATO and the European Union.
On 7 April 1998 the group used a Wasp 58 anti-armor rocket similar to ones stolen from a Greek Army depot in Larisa to attack a downtown branch of the American Citibank, which caused damage but no injuries, as the warhead did not explode.. The rocket was fired by remote control from a private car parked outside the bank on Drossopoulou street in the downtown district of Kypseli.
The group, which made its début in 1975 has claimed responsibility for the killing 20 Greeks and foreigners.
On 12 January 2007, a group calling itself "Revolutionary Struggle" claimed responsibility for a Wasp 58 missile attack on the United States embassy in Athens, similar to the attack of 7 April 1998. The group described itself as a spinoff of 17N.
A partial list of the victims:
On 29 June 2002 Greek authorities captured an injured suspect, Savvas Xiros, following a failed bombing attempt on the Flying Dolphin ferry company in Piraeus. A search of Xiros' person and interrogation led to the discovery of two safe houses and to the arrests of six more suspects, including two brothers of Savvas. A 58-year-old professor, Alexandros Giotopoulos, was identified as the group leader and was arrested on 17 July on the island of Lipsi. On 5 September, Dimitris Koufodinas, identified as the group's chief of operations, surrendered to the authorities. In all, nineteen individuals were charged with some 2,500 offenses relating to the activities of N17.
The trial of the terrorist suspects commenced in Athens on 3 March 2003, with Christos Lambrou serving as the lead prosecutor for the Greek state. Because of the 20-year statute of limitations, crimes committed before 1984 (such as the killing of the CIA station chief) could not be tried by the court. On 8 December, fifteen of the accused, including A. Giotopoulos and D. Koufodinas, were found guilty; another four defendants were acquitted for lack of evidence. The convicted members were sentenced on 17 December 2003. All those convicted defendants appealed. On 3 May 2007, the convictions were upheld.
In December 2005, journalist Kleanthis Grivas published an article in To Proto Thema, a Greek Sunday newspaper, in which he accused "Sheepskin", the Greek branch of Gladio, NATO's stay-behind paramilitary organization during the Cold War, of the assassination of CIA station chief Richard Welch in Athens in 1975, as well as of the assassination of Stephen Saunders in 2000. This was denied by the US State Department, who responded that "the Greek terrorist organization '17 November' was responsible for both assassinations", and asserted that Grivas's central piece of evidence had been a document ("Westmoreland Field Manual") which the State department, as well as a Congressional inquiry had dismissed as a Soviet forgery. It should be noted the documents make no specific mention of Greece, November 17th, nor Welch. The State Department also highlighted the fact that, in the case of Richard Welch, "Grivas bizarrely accuses the CIA of playing a role in the assassination of one of its own senior officials" as well as the Greek government's statements to the effect that the "stay behind" network had been dismantled in 1988.