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On 13 May 1981, in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City, Pope John Paul II was shot and wounded by Mehmet Ali Ağca while he was entering the square. The Pope was struck four times and suffered severe blood loss. Ağca was apprehended immediately and later sentenced to life in prison by an Italian court. The Pope later forgave Ağca for the assassination attempt.[1] He was pardoned by Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi at the Pope's request and was deported to Turkey in June 2000.



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In 1979 The New York Times reported that Agca, whom it called "the self-confessed killer of an Istanbul newspaperman" (Abdi İpekçi, editor of the Turkish newspaper Milliyet), had described the Pope as "the masked leader of the crusades" and threatened to shoot him if he did not cancel his planned visit to Turkey, which went ahead in late November 1979. The paper also said (on 28 November 1979) that the killing would be in revenge for the then still ongoing attack on the Grand Mosque in Mecca, which had begun on 20 November, and which he blamed on the United States or Israel.

Beginning in August 1980, Ağca, under the alias of Vilperi, began criss-crossing the Mediterranean region, changing passports and identities, perhaps to hide his point of origin in Sofia, Bulgaria. He entered Rome on 10 May 1981, coming by train from Milan. According to Ağca's later testimony, he met with three accomplices in Rome, one a fellow Turk and two Bulgarians, with the operation being commanded by Zilo Vassilev, the Bulgarian military attaché in Italy. He said that he was assigned this mission by Turkish mafioso Bekir Çelenk in Bulgaria. According to Ağca, the plan was for him and the back-up gunman Oral Çelik to open fire on the pope in St. Peter's Square and escape to the Bulgarian embassy under the cover of the panic generated by a small explosion.


1979 - Abdi İpekçi Assasination and the assassin Mehmet Ali Ağca

On 13 May, they sat in the square, writing postcards and waiting for the Pope to arrive. When the Pope passed through a crowd of supporters, Ağca fired four shots at 17:17 with a 9mm Browning Hi-Power semi-automatic pistol, and critically wounded him. He fled the scene as the crowd was in shock and disposed of the pistol by throwing it under a truck, but was grabbed by Vatican security chief Camillo Cibin, a nun, and several spectators who prevented him from firing more shots or escaping, and he was arrested. All four bullets hit John Paul II; two of them lodged in his lower intestine while the other two hit his left index finger and right arm and also injured two bystanders: Ann Odre, of Buffalo, New York, was struck in the chest, and Rose Hall was slightly wounded in the arm.[8][9][10] The Pope was immediately rushed to the hospital while the authorities combed the site for evidence. Çelik panicked and fled without setting off his bomb or opening fire.


Ağca was sentenced in July 1981 to life imprisonment for the assassination attempt, but was pardoned by Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi in June 2000 at the Pope's request. He was then extradited to Turkey, where he was imprisoned for the 1979 murder of left-wing journalist Abdi İpekçi and two bank raids carried out in the 1970s. Despite a plea for early release in November 2004, a Turkish court announced that he would not be eligible for release until 2010. Nonetheless he was released on parole on 12 January 2006. However, on 20 January 2006, the Turkish Supreme Court ruled that his time served in Italy could not be deducted from his Turkish sentence and he was returned to jail. Ağca was released from prison on 18 January 2010, after almost 29 years behind bars.


Several theories exist concerning Ağca's assassination attempt. One, which was initially propagated in the American media and strongly advocated since the early 1980s by Michael Ledeen and Claire Sterling among others, was that the assassination attempt had originated from Moscow and that the KGB had instructed the Bulgarian and East German secret services to carry out the mission. The Bulgarian Secret Service was allegedly instructed by the KGB to assassinate the Pope because of his support of Poland's Solidarity movement, seeing it as one of the most significant threats to Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe.[

Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman instead term this as the spread of "disinformation as news" in their book Manufacturing Consent (1988), as they say there was no evidence to support this claim, while Wolfgang Achtner of The Independent dubbed it "one of the most successful cases - certainly the most publicized - of disinformation.

Ağca himself has given multiple conflicting statements on the assassination at different times. Attorney Antonio Marini stated: "Ağca has manipulated all of us, telling hundreds of lies, continually changing versions, forcing us to open tens of different investigations". Originally, Ağca claimed to be a member of the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), but they denied any ties to him.

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