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Riots erupt in several Greek cities

Riots raged in several Greek cities on Sunday after police shot dead a teenage boy in the capital Athens, in the Mediterranean nation's worst civil disturbances in years.

world Updated: Dec 07, 2008 09:05 IST

Riots raged in several Greek cities on Sunday after police shot dead a teenage boy in the capital Athens, in the Mediterranean nation's worst civil disturbances in years.

The rioting began in Athens late on Saturday soon after the shooting in the central Exarchia district, where youths threw petrol bombs at police, burned dozens of cars and smashed shop windows. It quickly spread to Greece's second largest city of Thessaloniki and other towns in northern Greece.

Cities on the holiday islands of Crete and Corfu also saw protests at the shooting, which prompted Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos to offer his resignation. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, whose fragile government has been rocked by a series of scandals, rejected it, a ministry spokeswoman said.

"On behalf of the government and the prime minister, I express sorrow for the incident and especially the death of the young boy," Pavlopoulos said in a statement.

"An investigation to clarify the incident has already begun ... There will be an exemplary punishment and, above all, measures will be taken so that this will never be repeated."

Two police officers were arrested and being questioned over the incident, according to a police statement.

The officers said their patrol car had been attacked by 30 youths throwing stones and other objects. When they attempted to arrest the youths, they were attacked again and one of the officers fired three shots, killing the boy, the statement said.

It was the first time since 1985 that police have killed a minor in Greece, a police spokesman said. A hospital official, who asked not to be identified, said the boy was 15 years old.

"Murderers in uniforms!" chanted hundreds of protesters who marched on the Athens police headquarters, where the two policemen were being held.

Plumes of black smoke rose into the night sky as overturned cars burned in Exarchia, a regular flash-point of trouble between police and gangs of self-proclaimed anarchists.

Police fired tear gas to disperse the youths, many of whom wore black hoods. Restaurants closed their shutters early and at least two police officers were injured in the rioting.

A group calling itself the United Anti-Capitalist Left called a march for Monday in Athens against the killing. Karamanlis's centre-right government, which holds a slender one-seat majority in parliament, has faced a series of protests from unions and students.

In recent months, the Socialist opposition has taken the lead in opinion polls amid anger at public scandals and the government's handling of the economy. Many analysts say Karamanlis could be forced to call early elections next year.