KOMOTINI, Greece (AP) — An unemployed man shot and wounded three people and took two others hostage Thursday at a plastics factory in northern Greece, police said. State TV said police special forces were drawing up plans to storm the factory, but authorities have not confirmed that report.
The incident occurred in the northern town of Komotini, 800 kilometers (500 miles) northeast of Athens, at a factory that makes trash bins and other plastic products. The shooter, identified by police only as a 52-year-old Greek man, was fired from the factory six months ago.
Police said he burst into the site Thursday with a shotgun, firing at the chairman of the company and a Bulgarian employee, who were both hospitalized with gunshot wounds not considered to be life threatening. A police officer also has been shot and injured in the hand.
Authorities said the two men taken hostage were company drivers.
"The gunman had worked as an 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 Anathanasios Adrianopoulos was shot in his office and wounded in the neck, arms and body, and taken out of the building by employees who intervened to try to stop the gunman. It said the hostages were ages 51 and 64.
Police said the gunman had demanded payment of euro31,000 ($41,250) in money he said he was owed by the company.
They said the industrial area outside Komotini, a town of some 65,000 inhabitants, had been cordoned off and that negotiators had reached the site.
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.
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 re-hire 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."
Kantouris reported from Thessaloniki, Greece.