|hand can be seen holding a gun as Pope John Paul II was driven past in 1981. A Polish communist leader has claimed the shooting was carried out under order of Islamic terrorists|
The assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II was carried out under orders from Islamic terrorists, Poland's last communist leader has claimed.
The Polish-born pope almost died in the attempt when Turkish sniper Mehmet Ali Agca shot him with four rounds in St Peter's Square in the Vatican in 1981.
An official inquiry into the shooting blamed Soviet-sponsored assassins who wanted the pope dead because of his support for the democracy movement Solidarity.
But now General Wojciech Jaruzelski - who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer - claims Islamic fanatics sponsored the would-be assassination.
'Radical Islam detested the pope and saw in him a leader of crusades,' he told Poland's 'Jezus' Catholic magazine.
With less than a month to go before the beatification of the late pope in Rome on May 1, the former general's comments are likely to reopen long-held misgivings in Poland about the shooting 30 years ago.
Many in Poland have placed the blame at the feet of the communist authorities and will now see Mr Jaruzelski's claims as an attempt to confuse the matter further.
But rejecting the long-standing theory of Soviet, or Bulgarian, communist involvement in the attempt, he said: 'The Islamic trail would seem the most logical.'
The pope was shot as he was driven through a packed St Peter's Square on May 13, 1981. He was hit four times, but survived after emergency surgery.
His assassin Mehmet Ali Agca was a trained sniper. Three Bulgarians, including airline representative Sergein Antonov, were also tried after Agca claimed he had been acting on behalf of the Soviets.
Although Agca was sentenced, the case against the Bulgarians fell apart due to a lack of evidence.
Mr Jaruzelski said the court was right to drop the charges.
He said: 'During a visit to Bulgaria in 1982 or 1983, I candidly asked Todor Zhivkov, then Secretary of the Communist Party, "Comrade Todor, what can you tell me in confidence about the Bulgarian trail?"
'He answered, "Comrade Jaruzelski, do you take us for a mass of fools? Do you think that we would leave Antonov in his place if he was really involved in an attack?"'
He added that 'there were various countries and various forces that wanted the pope to be eliminated, but it does not mean that they gave Ali Agca the order to kill him'.
It had been suggested that Mr Jaruzelski should attend the beatification ceremony at the Vatican.
But he has turned the invitation down due to poor health and being diagnosed with cancer.