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Angry Greek youths wreak havoc

world Updated: Dec 07, 2008 21:21 IST

Hundreds of protesters set cars ablaze, lobbed molotov cocktails at banks and clashed with police in several Greek cities on Sunday in a night-long display of anger at the police killing of a teenager.

The death of 15-year-old Andreas Grigoropoulos late Saturday set off outbursts throughout the evening from the capital Athens to the southern island of Crete.

The clashes continued through Sunday morning in central Athens, where a group of masked youths threw stones and molotov cocktails at police officers who responded with tear gas in front of a university.

Other groups held siege at the polytechnic school in the Exarchia district, where Grigoropoulos was shot by a police officer who opened fire after youths threw objects at his car.

Demonstrators took to the streets of Athens late Saturday to protest the "arbitrary" police action, shouting slogans against the right-wing government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

Youths set fire to garbage bins in the central Exarchia district, scene of frequent clashes with police.

The anger spread to other cities as protesters set about 20 cars on fire in Athens, Greece's second largest city of Salonika and western Patras through the evening.

The facades of 17 banks in Athens and five in Salonika were damaged, while some businesses were also attacked. Demonstrators threw molotov cocktails at the police station in Patras.

On the island of Crete, three banks in the main city of Iraklion were damaged while molotov cocktails were tossed at city hall in the town of Chania.

Grigoropoulos was among a group of about 30 youths who threw stones and other projectiles at a car transporting two police officer. One of the officers got out of the car and opened fire, hitting the teenager with three bullets.

He was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead of a chest wound.

Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos called for an "exemplary punishment" against those responsible for what he termed an "isolated incident."

Three prosecutors were tasked with investigating the shooting, while the Athens Press Agency reported that the chief of the police station in Exarchia and the two police officers involved in the shooting were suspended.

Pavlopoulos and the police expressed "deep regret" over the shooting.

"Police keep watch and try to ensure order for citizens by defending themselves ... but this type of isolated incident that led to the death of a youth is never justifiable," Pavlopoulos said.

He called on human rights groups and leftist organisations planning protests on Sunday to avoid "extreme acts."

Pavlopoulos and junior minister Panayotis Hinofotis offered their resignations to the prime minister, who did not accept them.

In 1985, 15-year-old Michalis Kaltezas was shot by a police officer, triggering violent clashes between far-left youths and the police in Exarchia.