ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek police are searching for five suspects believed to be involved in the killing of an Iraqi migrant in central Athens, authorities said Sunday, as attacks on immigrants rise amid fears stoked by far right groups that they are to blame for a rise in crime.
A police statement said the young man, whose name and age has not been disclosed, was attacked Sunday morning by the five individuals and struck multiple times by a sharp instrument, likely a knife. He was taken to a hospital but died several hours later.
The statement added that a Romanian and a Moroccan were attacked earlier, but managed to flee. It did not specify if they had sustained injuries
Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias offered his condolences to the dead man's family, declaring "that the state will be ruthless towards all perpetrators of criminal acts, whatever excuse they use (to justify) them."
The far-right party Golden Dawn, running on an openly anti-immigrant platform, polled almost 7 percent of the vote in successive national elections in May and June this year, capitalizing on public fears of rising crime. Party members have sought to take the role of public protectors, distributing food to the poor — but only those with Greek IDs — and doing chores for elderly residents that they say are too frightened to venture out of their houses in areas with a heavy migrant presence.
There has been a rise in the number of far right vigilante groups, and immigrants have increasingly been on the receiving end of violent attacks.
The government has sought to blunt Golden Dawn's rising influence by cracking down on illegal immigration.
In early August, it launched operation "Hospitable Zeus" making regular sweeps of immigrants in Athens and tightening patrols along Greece's northeastern border with Turkey, where the bulk of illegal immigration — over 100,000 people a year — occurs.