Mehmet Ali Agca

From Academic Kids

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Mehmet Ali Ağca

Template:Titlelacksdiacritics Mehmet Ali Ağca (born January 9, 1958) is a Turkish militant who shot Pope John Paul II in Saint Peter's Square on May 13, 1981.

Following the shooting, Pope John Paul II asked people to "pray for my brother (Ağca), whom I have sincerely forgiven." In 1983, Pope John Paul II and his would-be assassin Ağca met and spoke privately at the Italian prison where Ağca was being held. According to a United Press article, the Pope had kept in touch with Ağca's family over the years, having met his mother in 1987 and his brother a decade later.

Ağca is currently in prison in Turkey for crimes he committed before going to Italy.



As a youth, Ağca became a petty criminal and a member of street gangs in his home town. He later became a smuggler in the lucrative trade between Turkey and Bulgaria. He then went to Syria where he received two months of training in weaponry and terrorist tactics. He claims this was paid for by the Bulgarian government. After this training he went to work for the far-right Turkish Grey Wolves, who were at the time destabilizing Turkey, which led to a military government. Opinions differ on whether the Grey Wolves were being used by the CIA or the Bulgarian Secret Service to that end. Ağca describes himself as a mercenary of no political orientation who was willing to do anything for enough money. In 1979, under orders from the Grey Wolves, he killed the left-wing newspaper editor Abdi İpeki in Istanbul. He was caught due to an informant and was sentenced to life in prison. He soon escaped, with the help of the Grey Wolves.

Plot against the Pope

Ağca fled to Bulgaria. He later once stated that in Sofia, he was approached by the Bulgarian Secret Service, who offered him three million German Marks to assassinate the Pope. The Bulgarians were allegedly instructed by the KGB to assassinate the Pope because of his support of Poland's Solidarity movement. However, Ağca later renounced this theory of the events, and has given multiple conflicting statements on the assassination at different times.

Many people, most notably Edward Herman and Michael Parenti, felt Ağca's story was dubious at best, noting that Agca made no claims of Bulgarian involvement until he had been isolated in solitary confinement and visited by Italian Military Intelligence (SISME) agents, who allegedly had already postulated a theory of Bulgarian involvement.

 The Pope was shot while riding in popemobile
The Pope was shot while riding in popemobile

Beginning in August 1980 Ağca began criss crossing the Mediterranean region, changing passports and identities, likely to hide his point of origin in Sofia. He entered Rome on May 10, 1981 coming by train from Milan.

In Rome he claimed that he met up with three accomplices, one fellow Turk and two Bulgarians. According to Ağca the entire operation was commanded by Zilo Vassilev, the Bulgarian military attach in Rome.

The plan was for Ağca, and the back-up gunman Oral Celik, to fire from St. Peter's Square and then detonate a panic bomb to create chaos and allow the group to escape to the Bulgarian embassy. On May 13 they sat in the square writing postcards waiting for the Pope to arrive. When he passed, Ağca fired two shots at the Pope, however he was grabbed by the members of the crowd and prevented from continuing to fire or escape. Celik panicked and did not set off his bomb or fire at the Pope, instead disappearing into the crowd.

Originally Ağca claimed to be a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, but they denied any ties to him.

Soon after, Sergei Antonov, one of the Bulgarians, was arrested based on Ağca's testimony. After a three-year trial he was found not guilty for want of evidence. Ağca's testimony proved to be often contradictory and occasionally descended into insane ranting, including claims of being Jesus. The Bulgarians have always insisted they were innocent and argued that Ağca's story was an anti-Communist plant placed by the far-right Grey Wolves, the Italian secret service, and the CIA. Edward Herman, in his book on the so-called Bulgarian connection, alleged that the CIA employed Michael Ledeen to be a vocal proponent of the theory that the Bulgarian Secret Service were behind the assassination attempt.

Ağca was sentenced to life imprisonment in Italy, but was pardoned by president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi in June 2000. Ağca returned to Turkey, where he was imprisoned for the murder of Abdi İpeki.

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Pope John Paul II talks with his would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Agca during a private meeting in Agca's prison cell in Rome in this undated picture

Ağca is quoted as saying "To me [the pope] was the incarnation of all that is capitalism." Despite a plea for early release, in November 2004, a Turkish court announced that he will not be eligible to leave prison until 2010.

On June 26, 2000 Pope John Paul II released the "Third Secret of Fatima" in which he explained that Ağca's assassination attempt was the fulfillment of this Third Secret. Some conspiracy theorists doubt the Roman Catholic Church's full disclosure of the contents of the letter, as prior to its release, it was popularly believed that the Secret might predict the Apocalypse.

During his visit to Bulgaria in May 2002 Pope John Paul II declared that he had never believed in the so called Bulgarian connection.

In early February of 2005, during the Pope's illness, Ağca sent a letter to the Pope wishing him well and also warning him that the world would end soon. Later in February 2005, Pope John Paul II published his book "Memory and Identity: Conversations Between Millenniums" which includes his account of surviving the assassination attempt in 1981. The book is essentially a transcript of conversations he had in Polish with his close friends, political philosopher Krzysztof Michalski and the late Rev. Jozef Tishner, in 1993 at his summer residence near Rome.

2005 interviews

On March 31, 2005, with Pope John Paul II's death imminent, Ağca gave an interview to the Italian newspaper Repubblica [1] ( An English translation with some commentary can be found here ( Ağca claims to be working on a book about the assassination attempt, to be published later in 2005. Repubblica quoted Ağca claiming at length that he had accomplices in the Vatican who helped him with the assassination attempt. However, a week later, Turkish Weekly reported Ağca denying having made such claims [2] (

When the Pope died on April 2, 2005, Ağca's brother Adnan gave an interview in which he said that Mehmet Ali and his entire family were grieving, and that the pope was a great friend to them. On April 5, 2005 CNN stated that Ağca would want to visit the Pope's funeral on April 8, 2005. However Turkish authorities rejected his request to leave prison to attend the late pontiff's funeral.

Cultural References

Agca's shooting of the Pope was a major plot element in Tom Clancy's 2002 book Red Rabbit, though he is not mentioned by name; the book details the alleged KGB involvement in the assassination attempt, as well as the attempt itself.da:Mehmet Ali Agca de:Mehmet Ali Ağca id:Mehmet Ali Agca nl:Mehmet Ali Agca ja:メフメト・アリ・アジャ no:Mehmet Al Aga pl:Mehmet Ali Ağca sv:Mehmet Ali Agca it:Mehmet Ali Agca


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