Security officials here are assuming that a well-known Greek terrorist organization is behind Tuesday's assassination of a United States military attach'e. US Navy Capt. William E. Nordeen died when a forceful blast from a nearby booby-trapped car destroyed the vehicle in which he was traveling. A US Embassy spokesman said Nordeen, who leaves a wife and 12-year-old daughter, was to leave Greece this summer after a three-year tour of duty.
Witnesses said two people in their 30's zoomed off on a motorcycle immediately after the explosion. Police found the vehicle less than 2 miles away, with stolen license plates.
Greek security officials say they presume there is a connection with the left-wing November 17 group, which has killed or injured several Americans in more than a decade of terrorist activity. No one from November 17, named after a 1973 student uprising that precipitated the downfall of the Greek junta, has ever been caught.
The security sources say the attack on Nordeen resembled a bus bombing last August, in an Athens suburb, in which 10 military servicemen were injured along with one American civilian and a Greek bus driver. An electronic remote-control device, without any cable, was also used in that attack. November 17 claimed responsibility, saying the attack was aimed at US military bases in Greece.
November 17 has repeatedly called for the removal of all US bases in Greece. Last Friday, US and Greek negotiators completed the seventh round of talks about the future of four major, and about 20 smaller, US bases in Greece. The current agreement covering their operation expires at the end of 1988.
Anti-American feelings in Greece have subsided in recent years, but many Greeks still blame the US, which they claim backed the military rulers from 1967 to 1974.
The 3,500 American military personnel and their 3,000 dependents remain fairly isolated from Greeks. Many have been quoted saying they believe their role in Greece is to ``help prevent the spread of communism.''
November 17 claimed its 11th victim in March, when two gunmen killed a prominent Greek businessman. The organization's first target was Richard Welch, a CIA station chief in Athens, who was killed in 1975.
The US Embassy quickly condemned Nordeen's murder Tuesday, saying it ``reconfirms'' the US ``commitment to continuing the fight against international terrorism.'' The Greek government also denounced the action.
The two countries have signed a counterterrorism agreement, but Greek officials would not confirm whether US investigators were cooperating with them on the Nordeen case.