A prominent Bulgarian politician survived what appeared to be a dramatic point-blank assassination attempt on Saturday, when an unidentified man pointed a gas pistol at his head and fired in front of hundreds of horrified onlookers.
Ahmed Dogan, leader and founder of the influential liberal Bulgarian political party Movement for Rights and Freedoms, was delivering an address at the party’s annual conference in the capital city of Sofia when the black-clad man — who appeared to have a security pass to attend the event — approached suddenly with the pistol.
Attendees gasped as the attacker placed the gun inches from Dogan’s head and pulled the trigger twice. When no shot rang out, Dogan wrestled briefly with the man as audience members and security staff swooped in from off stage.
Gas pistols are normally used for non-lethal self-defense, but they can cause fatal injuries when fired at close range.
The 25-year-old assailant, who authorities have determined has a criminal history of robbery and drug possession, was then beaten and kicked savagely by the assembled crowd.
After approximately thirty seconds, the mob stopped the attack and pushed aside an elderly man who appeared intent on administering his own beating.
Police later found two knives on the assailant, whom amused YouTube users claimed to have heard shouting “YOLO” while the attendees kicked him. He actually appeared to have screamed “noldu,” meaning “what happened?”
“Bulgarian society is traditionally known for its tolerance, mutual acceptance and respect between different ethnic groups and religions,” Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev said in a statement. “Such an act is unacceptable in a democratic state.”
Dogan, who is 58 years old, was unharmed in the incident.
Some politicians and analysts being interviewed by local media in Bulgaria have speculated that the attack was not an assassination attempt and may even have been staged.
The MRF party represents minority interests in Bulgaria and relies chiefly on the votes of ethnic Turks and other Muslims.