Greece Hostage-taker Surrenders To Police

Published March 2, 2012 2:00AM (EST)

KOMOTINI, Greece (AP) — A former plastics factory employee who took two hostages in this northern Greek city surrendered after nearly 12 hours early Friday, police said. He had previously shot and wounded three people.

Police say the two hostages were unharmed and the hostage-taker was taken into custody without incident in Komotini, about 800 kilometers (500 miles) northeast of Athens.

The man, identified by his former employer as 52-year-old Dimitrios Manikas, had been fired from the plastics factory six months ago.

Manikas burst into the site Thursday afternoon with a shotgun, firing at the chairman of the company and a Bulgarian employee, who were hospitalized with gunshot wounds not considered to be life threatening. A police officer also was shot and injured in the hand.

Police started negotiating with Manikas about 3 hours after he burst into the factory. At some point, according to police, the gunman demanded his antidepressant medication, which was eventually delivered. From that point on, police say negotiations progressed rapidly and Manikas surrendered by throwing his gun out into the open and then walking out.

Employees at the company said that about 40 of the company's 85 employees were at the factory, which makes trash bins and other plastic products, when the gunman burst in at 1 p.m.

"The gunman had worked as an office employee at our factory in Komotini, between July 20, 2000 and Aug. 31, 2011, when he was dismissed, after displaying an unstable, inappropriate, and delinquent behavior over a long period of time in the workplace," the plastics company, the Athens-based Helesi Corp., said in a statement.

The company said its chairman Athanasios Adrianopoulos, 51, was shot in his office and wounded in the neck, arms and elsewhere, and taken out of the building by employees, who intervened to try to stop the gunman. Employee Emil Ilen Marinov, 30, a Bulgarian national, was wounded in the legs. It identified the two hostages as company drivers Theofanis Diggiaris, 51, and Dimitrios Gritzelis, 64.

Police said the gunman had demanded payment of euro31,000 ($41,250) in money he said he was owed by the company. The company denies it owes Manikas any back pay.

Unemployment has risen rapidly since the start of Greece's financial crisis — roughly doubling to nearly 21 percent following more than two years of austerity measures. The jobless rate is highest in the northern Macedonia and Thrace regions, at nearly 24 percent. The work force at the Helesi factory has been reduced from 130 to 85 over the past two years.

Pantelis Magalios, head of a labor center in Komotini, told the AP that the gunman had run out of money.

"He had been employed at the plant for several years ... They had promised to rehire him," Magalios said. "His colleagues told me that he had not eaten anything in four days."

Speaking later to Greek reporters, he added: "We condemn this incident, which should not have happened. But the problem is that have to think about what put the gun in this man's hand. What made him reach this point: unemployment, which is on the rise, and a cut in wages. These are problems we will continue to be confronted with."


Costas Kantouris reported from Thessaloniki.

By Salon Staff

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