Pope John Paul attacker dismisses ‘Bulgaria link’ as Cold War propaganda

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The man who shot and wounded Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1981, on Thursday said allegations that Bulgaria masterminded the attack were Cold War propaganda, Agence France-Presse reported.

For the 40th anniversary of the shooting on Saint Peter’s Square in Rome, Mehmet Ali Ağca, gave a rare interview claiming Bulgaria was “sacrificed” in a time of war.

“This was a matter of international war,” the far-right Turkish nationalist told the Nova private TV channel.

“There was a war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, between the US and Russia that was the Soviet Union, between the Vatican and communism,” Ağca said.

“And in an international war there will always be human tragedies,” he added.

A member of the extremist Grey Wolves group, Ağca was freed from an Ankara prison in 2010.

Nova said the 63-year-old hitman now lives in an İstanbul suburb.

It has never been established who was behind his attempt on the pope’s life.

One leading theory traced the attack to the KGB and Moscow’s closest satellite Bulgaria because of the pope’s open support for the Polish opposition union Solidarity.

Three Bulgarians, including two diplomats and the Rome-based representative of Bulgaria’s Balkan airline Sergey Antonov, were accused of complicity.

Ağca alleged Antonov had given him the gun.

“Yes, I pointed at them but at that time it was necessary to do it,” Ağca said in the interview, excerpts of which were broadcast Thursday.

Antonov was arrested in 1982 and spent three years in an Italian jail before being released due to a lack of evidence in 1986.

He returned to Bulgaria suffering severe mental problems and died in 2007.

“When it comes to war on an international scale, such things happen. The Bulgarians were, so to say, sacrificed. Sacrificed,” Ağca said.

“Bulgaria is innocent of the attack against the pope. This is a fact.”

Over the years, Ağca has changed his story repeatedly, also claiming Russians and then Iranians put him up to it.

His latest version of events coincides with Bulgaria’s position that it was not involved in any way.

The opening of the country’s secret service archives after the fall of communism in 1989 also did not reveal any sign of Bulgarian involvement.

During a visit to the country in 2002, three years before his death, John Paul II said he “never believed in the Bulgarian connection.”

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