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10 High Profile Assassination Attempts That Failed Badly

Becoming a national leader creates enemies and friends in almost equal measure and not all angry people keep their hate to themselves. On November 22nd, 1963, the whole world woke up to the horrible assassination of president J.F Kennedy. This heinous act always reminds the world on what can happen when someone loses control over their hate for a leader. This was however just one of the countless assassination attempts planned yearly around the world; some are never put into action. Luckily, not all assassination attempts end with a dead body; some fail hilariously turning into a total mockery of the assassin.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan

John Hinckley Jr was obsessed with impressing Jodie Foster after watching her act on the movie “ Taxi Driver.” He tried to express his feelings to the actress many times by writing her letters and even calling her several times. He even signed up at Yale University for a course he didn’t need after hearing that the actress was attending classes there but he didn’t manage to get close to her. In a final attempt, he decided to kill the president for her just like Travis Bickle in the movie. He tried to assassinate President Carter but he was arrested at Nashville Airport with guns before getting close to the president.

After his failure on president Carter, he decided to kill President Ronald Reagan instead. On March 30th, 1981, a few days after writing to Foster stating that he was going to kill the president for her, he attacked the presidential procession in front of Hilton Hotel in Washington. He was armed with a .22 revolver loaded with exploding bullets but being a poor shot, he failed to land a fatal shot despite being just 10ft from the president. He fired 5 shots hitting the press secretary and two members of the security team. His last shot ricocheted off the presidential limo and hit the president in the left lung but the president recovered. He was later found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to St. Elizabeth Psychiatric hospital from where he was released in 2016.[1]

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II

This came just one month after the assassination attempt on President Reagan and days after Cardinal Carter of Toronto warned the pontiff to be cautious on his public appearances. The pope was shot at by Mehmet Ali Agca, a murder convict who had escaped from a Turkish prison. Agca,s attempt was, however, part of a wider plot with his accomplice Oral Celik who was supposed to set off an explosion to distract the security team. The accomplice, however, grew cold feet and fled. Agca,s shots hit the pope in the abdomen and the arm but he recovered after a 5hr surgery. He also injured 2 bystanders in the process but they also survived. An Italian Court later sentenced him to life in prison. Pope John Paul, however, forgave him and urged the Italian government to pardon him.[2]

Charles De Gaulle

Charles De Gaulle

Charles De Gaulle survived more than 30 assassination attempts while he was the president of France. Most of them were from OAS, a group of veterans that accused him of betraying the nation when he left Algeria in the hands of Algerians in 1959. The deadliest attack he experienced occurred on August 22nd, 1962 when his car was shot more than 140 times while traveling from Elysee Palace to Orly Airport. The attack was carried out by 12 members of the rogue group shattering all the windows and killing 2 members of the presidential motorcade who were on motorbikes.

Fortunately, he had just acquired a new Citroen DS which had a powerful suspension system that allowed the driver to flee the scene despite all the 4 tires being flattened. The President and the first lady stayed unharmed throughout the ordeal by keeping their heads down. The car received a new name, “La Deesse” (The Goddess) for saving the president and his wife from the attack.[3]

Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro or El Comandante as he is known in Cuba survived more than 600 assassination attempts at the hands of the CIA and Cuban Exiles. The ardent communist leader was probably the most difficult man to kill considering the sneaky nature of these attempts. Castro’s Legendary escapes started at the Bay of the pigs’ attack where the US-backed rebels were beaten terribly while Fidel and Raul Castro escaped unharmed. The CIA then resorted to hundreds of frantic attempts including exploiting his love for scuba diving to kill him.

They attempted to plant an explosive in a beautiful seashell So Castro would pick it up from the seashore and explode but they failed. They also infected a diving suit with fungus designed to cause a deadly skin infection but somehow, Fidel Castro never got the suit. More attempts followed for nearly five decades including a poisoned cigar at one point. The most shaming attempt occurred on the same day as J.F Kennedy’s assassination when the CIA sent an agent with a poisoned syringe-pen to kill Fidel Castro failing to identify a similar attempt on their own president.[4]

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler

Being the most hated man in the world, Adolf Hitler was no stranger to assassination attempts. Hitler and other members of the Nazi party were a clear sign of danger to the world even before World War II. Contrary to popular opinion, the closest attempts on Hitler were actually carried out by fellow concerned Germans rather than his foreign enemies. The first significant attempt came in November 1939. It was organized by Georg Elser, a poor carpenter who had some knowledge of bomb building. Elser was disappointed at the suffering of the common people under the Third Reich and feared that Germany would be heavily beaten by Allied forces if Fuehrer continued with his campaign. He started working on a plan to rig a bomb at the stage of the Munich beer hall where Hitler stood every year to deliver a speech.

Elser worked on his plan secretly for a whole year digging a hollow in the pillar of the stage to mount the bomb. However, on the day he detonated the bomb, Hitler left the stage a few minutes earlier to attend a meeting with his commanders so the bomb only killed a few insignificant figures of the Nazi party. Hitler became skeptical and beefed up his guard after this attempt. His second-closest call came in 1944 in the famous operation Valkyrie when his close allies and generals planted a bomb in a suitcase and planted it under the table where Hitler would sit in a meeting. One general however unconsciously moved the suitcase before the bomb exploded. Hitler escaped with only a ruptured eardrum and even gave Benito Mussolini a tour of the blast site afterward. He went ahead to hang all the people involved in the plot.[5]

Vladimir Lenin

Vladimir Lenin

This is the assassination attempt that changed the course of governance of the Soviet Union forever and sealed Joseph Stalin’s place as the leader of Russia. Vladimir Lenin still remains the most famous leader in Russia’s history after fostering the union between soldiers and workers that became the power of Russia after the 1917 revolution. He was loved by many people and interacted freely with crowds during his speeches so the bodyguards did not prevent people from speaking to him. On one such occasion in 1918, while speaking to a woman after delivering a speech, shots were fired at him. He was hit in the jaw, neck, and shoulder.

He survived the attack which was later blamed on the SR, the main opposition party at the time. The alleged assassin was a woman called Fanya Kaplan. The big problem is that Kaplan was a half-blind woman whose partial site had only been restored a few years earlier by doctors after years on hard labor imprisonment. Despite a lot of dissenting voices, Kaplan signed a confession and was executed by the firing squad the same year. The shots, however, caused health problems for Lenin leading to the three strokes that rendered him immobile and mute and later his death. This attempt, however, made Lenin more popular, boosted the support for the communists later determining their power in global politics.[6]

Franklin D Roosevelt

Franklin D Roosevelt

Many people were angry at the rich capitalists after the great depression and Franklin Roosevelt, the man elected after the dark economic times was not spared. On February 15th, 1933, Roosevelt, then the president-elect delivered a speech at Bayfront Park, Miami. He had suffered from Polio so he had to deliver his speech from the backseat of his open touring car. This condition actually saved his life when deranged Giuseppe Zangara shouted “too many people are starving” and fired six shots at the car.

Zangara was an Italian American bricklayer rendered jobless by the great depression leading to his hate for capitalists. President Roosevelt survived but Anton Cermak, then the mayor of Chicago was mortally wounded by a shot to the stomach. Zangara was later prosecuted after the president himself stopped the crowd from lynching him. His first sentence was 80 years in prison for assault with intent to murder. It was later reversed to a death sentence when the Chicago mayor died three weeks later.[7]

Andrew Jackson

This was the first assassination attempt on a sitting U.S. president. It happened on the chilly morning of January 30th, 1835 as the top leaders gathered for the funeral of Warren Davis, the then South Carolina representative. The assassin, Richard Lawrence, was a deranged painter who believed that the president had killed his father and that he was the 15th century King Richard III of England blaming Jackson for not paying tribute to Britain.

Lawrence fired at the president from two loaded Derringer pistols both firing at the cap but failing to release a bullet. Scientists later confirmed that the pistols were in good condition and that the president had beat odds of 125,000 to 1 by escaping both shots. Despite the president’s protest that the attack was the result of a conspiracy, Lawrence was found not guilty by cause of insanity and sent to a psychiatric hospital until his death in the 1860s.[8]

Khaled Mashal

Khaled Mashal

This is still largely regarded as the most embarrassing covert operation ever carried out by Mossad. Khaled Mashal was a respected diplomat and leader of Hamas loved both at home and in Jordan. In October 1997 after 2 suicide bombings in Israel, Mossad attempted to kill Mashal with a nerve agent. The operation involved eight operatives, two of whom were arrested after smearing Mashal with a nerve agent. This action angered King Hussein who appreciated Mashal’s efforts at promoting peace in Hamas as opposed to the Damascus based military wing of the group. He demanded that Israel bring an antidote to Amman immediately and that Benjamin Netanyahu should come to Israel personally and deliver an apology for sanctioning the operation.

The Israelis were reluctant until the King called President Bill Clinton in an attempt to save Mashal whose body was falling apart as a result of the poisoning. Bill Clinton commanded Netanyahu to comply with the demands and even release more than 60 Hamas prisoners including Sheikh Yasin in a bid to prevent a full-scale war with Jordan. Benjamin Netanyahu was also forced to flee to Jordan in the middle of the night to apologize to crown prince Hussein as the King was too angry to speak to him.[9]

King Louis XV

He was known as King Louis the beloved until January 5th, 1757 when a servant attempted to kill him. The would-be killer was Damiens, a servant who had developed a radical view of the king during his earlier service for the king’s nobles. His weapon of choice and timing were however too misguided to kill the king. Damiens chose a short-bladed knife on a cold evening when the king was heavily covered in cloaks. The attempt, however, turned hilarious when the king, believing he was going to die, confessed his extramarital affairs to the queen and asked for forgiveness. The wound was shallow and the king survived but Damien was quartered by horses for his crimes. After recovering, the king tried to be faithful in his marriage in a bid to appease the shocked nation.[10]

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