As ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, conquer huge swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, the risk of a terror attack on mainland Europe becomes more and more of a worry within the security and intelligence communities.
Various media outlets reported just this weekend that the latest target in the sights of ISIS is none other than Pope Francis at the Vatican.
A report in the Italian La Nazione publication on Saturday noted that the number of police officers patrolling St Peter’s Square, where the Pope addresses large crowds of people on Sundays and Wednesdays, has been significantly increased due to the potential threat.
The increased amount of officers protecting the Pope came after a foreign intelligence agency, possibly the CIA, intercepted a conversation between two Arabs who were discussing, “doing something in the Vatican.”
Thelocal.it reported that just two weeks ago Italy’s Interior Minister Angelino Alfano warned the Italian lower house of parliament that Italy and Rome, including the Vatican, are a principal target of ISIS, given that it is a symbol of the West and Christianity.
Even though a spokesman for the Vatican, Federico Lombardi, said that no specific warning had been received, Iraq’s ambassador to the Vatican, Habeeb Al Sadr, was a bit less optimistic, as he told La Nazione on Tuesday,
What has been declared by the self-declared Islamic State is clear – they want to kill the Pope. The threats against the Pope are credible. I believe they could try to kill him during one of his overseas trips or even in Rome. There are members of ISIS who are not Arabs but Canadian, American, French, British, also Italians. ISIS could engage any of these to commit a terrorist attack in Europe.
As well as that, Interior Minister Alfano said a couple of weeks ago to the Italian lower house of parliament that 48 Italians are known to have left to join ISIS in Syria, while ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi specifically stated on July 2 that Rome would be targeted.
It remains to be seen what ISIS’ plan is when it comes carrying out a potential attack in Europe and whether or not the Vatican, and Pope Francis, will indeed be targeted in some way in a future attack.