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Report: Pope gunman offered to nab bin Laden

The Turkish man who shot Pope John Paul II offered in 2000 to capture Osama bin Laden and planned to kill the late Syrian President Hafez Assad, a Turkish newspaper reported Tuesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Turkish man who shot Pope John Paul II offered in 2000 to capture al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and planned to kill the late Syrian President Hafez Assad, a Turkish newspaper reported Tuesday, printing what it said was a letter the gunman wrote.

The Hurriyet newspaper printed a handwritten letter purportedly penned by Mehmet Ali Agca, dated Sept. 1, 2000, and addressed to the head of the Turkish intelligence agency. In the letter, Agca asked that he be released from prison so he could travel to Afghanistan, infiltrate Bin Laden's terror network and capture him.

"I would lovingly carry out this historic mission even if it cost me my life," Agca wrote. "If I become a national hero in America, this would be good for the Turkish people and the Turkish state."

Agca also claimed in the letter that he had planned two attempts on the life of the late Syrian President Hafez Assad between 1979 and 1980.

The newspaper provided no details about how it obtained the letter.

Short-lived freedom?
Agca was released from an Istanbul prison last week after serving 25 years in Italy and Turkey for the 1981 attempt on the pope's life and the murder of a prominent Turkish journalist.

His freedom may be short-lived; he still faces the threat of returning to prison amid questions over whether he served enough time for killing journalist Abdi Ipekci.

Meanwhile, a military hospital that pronounced Agca unfit for military service determined that he had an "anti-social" personality, Hurriyet reported.

Doctors examined Agca on Monday and declared him unfit to serve, ending days of speculation over whether the 48-year-old would be drafted into the military. The reasons for the decision were not made public, and Agca's lawyer, Mustafa Demirbag, said the hospital ruled him unfit because he had served more than five years of "heavy" prison time.

The Hurriyet report, however, said Tuesday a panel of doctors ruled that Agca had an "anti-social" personality that made him incapable of obeying military orders. Other newspapers carried similar reports.

His arrival at the military hospital in Istanbul was his first appearance in public since he vanished hours after his release last Thursday. Agca slipped away again from the hospital in a speeding car and his whereabouts are not known.

Questions about mental health
There have been questions about the mental health of Agca, who has been known for frequent outbursts and claims that he is the Messiah.

Agca evaded mandatory army service in 1980, a year after escaping from a military prison where he was serving time for killing Ipekci in 1979.

He served about 19 years in a prison in Italy after he shot the pope on May 13, 1981, in St. Peter's Square. He was then extradited to Turkey on June 14, 2000, where he served 51/2 years on a conviction for murdering Ipekci.

Facing public outrage in Turkey over Agca's release, Justice Minister Cemil Cicek ordered a review of the decision to see whether there were any legal flaws. Cicek later suggested Agca may have to serve at least 11 more months in Turkey for his crimes here.

Cicek was expected later on Tuesday to formally ask appeals court to review the case. Agca will remain free until the court reviews the case.