Two men gunned down in Athens near Golden Dawn office

ATHENS - Two men were killed and another person seriously injured Friday in a shooting outside the Athens party offices of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, police said.

The dead victims were aged 22 and 25, police said, without giving details on their identities or political affiliation.

The pair were hit by three bullets each in the head and chest. One of the victims was killed instantly while the second succumbed to his injuries in hospital, according to the health ministry.

Local Greek media reported that the two were members of Golden Dawn. The party had planned a meeting in the Athens suburb of Neo Iraklio on Friday night, where the shootings took place.

Officers from police anti-terrorist units rushed to the scene and immediately cordoned off the surrounding area.

The injured victim was taken to hospital, according to police sources.

According to police, two unknown assailants parked their motorbike close to the local offices of the Golden Dawn party, before approaching the victims, firing and then fleeing on the bike.

Greece's public order minister Nikos Dendias expressed his "sadness for the death of the young men".

"We will not allow our country to become a place to settle scores,' added Dendias.

Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said the assassins would be pursued "relentlessly".

A statement from Golden Dawn published on its website denounced the attack and said "the government had refused to grant police protection to the party despite threats" against its members.

The shooting comes just weeks after the indictment of six Golden Dawn lawmakers for their involvement in a "criminal organisation" as part of a crackdown launched against the party. Three of them, Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos, deputy party leader Christos Pappas and party MP Yiannis Lagos, are being held in a high-security Athens prison on charges of running or belonging to a criminal group.

Parliament last week suspended state funding to the party as "the leader... or a tenth of the elected members are under investigation for constituting or participating in a criminal organisation"

Golden Dawn is Greece's third-most-popular party, with 18 seats in parliament.

Formerly on the fringe of Greek politics, the group boosted its popularity by tapping into widespread anger over immigration and austerity reforms in debt-wracked Greece, which is slogging through its sixth year of recession and where youth unemployment stands at 60 per cent.

Authorities began a crackdown on the far-right group following the killing of a leftwing musician by a self-confessed neo-Nazi.

The September 18 murder of hip hop artist Pavlos Fyssas by a Golden Dawn supporter triggered public outrage, putting pressure on Greek authorities to take action against the party.

Court documents have linked Golden Dawn to two murders including that of Fyssas, three attempted murders and numerous assaults.

Witnesses have also testified that senior party members were involved in migrant beatings, extortion and possible arms smuggling.

A number of police officers have also been arrested in connection with the investigation for allegedly aiding the group or turning a blind eye to its activities.