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1981 attack on Pope planned by Soviets: Report

Agence France-Presse | March 30, 2005

New documents found in the files of the former East German intelligence services confirm the 1981 assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II was ordered by the Soviet KGB and assigned to Bulgarian agents, an Italian daily said on Wednesday.

The Corriere della Sera said that the documents found by the German government indicated that the KGB ordered Bulgarian colleagues to carry out the killing, leaving the East German service known as the Stasi to coordinate the operation and cover up the traces afterwards.

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Bulgaria then handed the execution of the plot to Turkish extremists, including Mehmet Ali Agca, who pulled the trigger.

The daily said the documents had been handed over to Bulgaria and would be made available to the Italian parliamentary commission inquiring into the activities of formerly Communist eastern European regimes in Italy.

The newspaper said the documents consist mostly of letters from Stasi operatives to their Bulgarian counterparts seeking help in covering up traces after the attack and denying Bulgarian involvement.

Ali Agca, who is now in jail in Turkey, claimed after his arrest that the operation was under the control of the Bulgarian embassy in Rome. The Bulgarians have always insisted they were innocent and argued that Agca's story was part of an anti-communist plot by the Italian secret service and the CIA.

The paper said the documents back up the pope's own memories of the assassination attempt in May 1981 in his book "Memory and Identity: Conversations Between Millenniums," in which he said he was convinced that the attack was not planned or directed by Ali Agca.


Would-be assassin says he mourns for Pope

London Times | April 4, 2005
By Madeleine Acey

Mehmet Ali Agca, the gunman who tried to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981, said from prison in Turkey today that he was joining in mourning for the Pope.

The Pope met Agca in an Italian prison in 1983 and forgave him for the shooting. Agca was extradited to his native Turkey in 2000 after serving almost 20 years for the attack which seriously wounded the Pope. In Istanbul he is serving 17 years for earlier crimes committed there.

"I participate in the mourning of my Christian Catholic people," Agca said in a written statement faxed to the Associated Press. He referred to the Pope as "my spiritual brother."

Agca has given conflicting reasons for his attempt to kill the Pope in St Peter’s Square and has sometimes suggested that he beleived his actions were part of God’s plan.

"The divine plan has come to its conclusion," Agca said in his handwritten letter today.

Suspicions that the Turk acted on behalf of the former Soviet bloc, which feared that the Polish-born Pope would help trigger anti-communist revolts, linger despite denials by the former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

The Pope said he believed that the hand of the Virgin Mary saved his life in 1981.

In his letter, Agca said he was writing "the true perfect bible" and signed the letter: "Mehmet Ali Agca, the Messiah servant."

Agca is serving a ten-year prison sentence for the 1979 murder of a prominent Turkish newspaper editor and an additional seven years for commandeering a taxi and robbing an Istanbul factory.

Agca’s lawyers say that he could be released as early as this year because of recent changes to Turkish law.

Italy's La Repubblica newspaper reported on April 1 that Agca had said he had help from inside the Vatican for his attempt on the Pope's life.

"Without the help of priests and cardinals I wouldn't have been able to carry out my attack," Agca was quoted as saying in an interview with the daily. "The Devil is within the Vatican."

Agca has since denied that he gave any interview to the newspaper

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