(photo credit: )
A top Greek prosecutor ordered an investigation Monday into whether this summer's arson attacks in Greek forests could be considered terrorism, the Public Order Ministry said.
Dimitris Papangelopoulos, who is responsible for prosecuting terrorism and organized crime, ordered the investigation to determine "whether the crimes of arsonists and of arson attacks on forests carried out in the country during the summer of 2007" could come under Greece's anti-terrorism law, the ministry said in a statement.
The investigation will also seek to establish the identities of those responsible, the statement said.
Treating arson as a potential act of terrorism would give authorities broader powers of investigation and arrest.
Greece has been ravaged by hundreds of massive wildfires since Friday that have left at least 61 people dead. It also suffered fires in June and July, although they were nowhere near the same scale.
Government officials have been saying they suspect at least some of the blazes may have been caused by arson.
"So many fires breaking out simultaneously in so many parts of the country cannot be a coincidence," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who has called early elections for September 16, said in a nationally televised address on Saturday. "The state will do everything it can to find those responsible and punish them."
Several people have been arrested on suspicion of arson since Friday, although some of them were accused of starting fires through negligence rather than intent. One man, however, was charged with arson and homicide in connection with a fire near the southern town of Areopolis on Friday which killed six people.
On Sunday, Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras implied that the fires were part of a deliberate plan.
"We have findings, we have arrests and detentions, we have categorical testimonies from witnesses which will be included in the investigation. We can say that this truly constitutes an asymmetric threat," he said.
He said the fact many of the fires began late at night and on several simultaneous fronts "in the most unlikely places, where normal hikers or motorists would not go, lead us to the conclusion, not to raise questions but to look into ways of addressing this asymmetric threat." Neither Polydoras nor the government clarified what exactly was meant by an asymmetric threat.