Athens, Monday

LEFTIST Greek guerrillas shot and killed a senior Turkish diplomat in

an ambush outside his Athens home today, Public Order Minister Stelios

Papathemelis told reporters.

He said a three-man hit-squad opened fire on Turkish embassy

Counsellor Omer Haluk Sipahioglu with the same .45 calibre

semi-automatic pistol that the November 17 guerrilla group has used in a

string of killings, including that of a US Central Intelligence Agency

station chief.

''It's November 17,'' Papathemelis said bluntly after initial

ballistics tests on cartridge cases found at the scene.

The gunmen laid in wait for 46-year-old Sipahioglu outside his home in

the seaside suburb of Palaio Faliro.

They pumped six bullets into his chest and abdomen after he climbed

into his car to drive to work at the central Athens embassy. They then

escaped in heavy traffic.

Sipahioglu was sitting alone in the car when a front side-window was

blown out in a hail of bullets.

He survived the attack but died in hospital several hours later. A

hospital spokesman said Sipahioglu underwent surgery but had lost too

much blood to be saved.

The diplomat spoke briefly, telling doctors simply: ''I'm dying.''

Greek leaders sent messages of regret to Turkey and to Sipahioglu's


Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou expressed his condolences over the

''abhorrent murder'' in a note to Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller.

November 17 has not claimed responsibility for today's shooting. But

the group usually makes its claims a day or so after an attack in a long

letter to an Athens newspaper or radio station.

The mysterious guerrillas have been in operation in Athens since

December 1975, when they killed CIA station chief Richard Welch. Police

have never infiltrated the group or made any arrests, leading to endless

speculation about who its members are.

November 17 has killed 20 Greeks, Americans and Turks -- ranging from

Greek policemen and politicians to US diplomats and military personnel.

They are notorious for precision hits with guns, time-bombs and

rocket-propelled grenades.

Today's attack is certain to aggravate relations between Greece and

Turkey, which have been strained in recent months by a series of


Ankara has accused Greece of training Kurdish rebels, who are fighting

for independence and have carried out several attacks on tourist targets

in Turkey in recent months.

Greece has accused Ankara of violating its airspace, raising tensions

in a large Muslim minority near the Turkish border, and of failing to

provide security for the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Istanbul-based

spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians.--Reuter.