Italy Uncovers Plots: Is ISIS Planning ‘Reverse Crusade’?

On Thursday, Italian officials issued six arrest warrants after uncovering plots for attacks at the Vatican and the Israeli Embassy in Rome. According to the most recent reports, the plots involved ISIS sympathizers, five of whom are Moroccan and one of whom is the Italian wife of one of the Moroccan men. As Europe uncovers more plots for terror attacks in its member states, European residents are forced to acknowledge the threats to the region are ongoing and the likelihood that ISIS wants to embark on a “reverse crusade” is high.

Italy Uncovers Islamist Plot to Attack Vatican and Israeli Embassy

— Italy News Daily (@ItalyNewsDaily) April 29, 2016

Of the four arrested on Thursday for their involvement in the plots, security officials in Italy name one as Moroccan-born Abderrahim Moutahrrick. According to a report published yesterday in Newsweek, the man had received instructions that originated in a territory held by ISIS instructing him to strike between December 2015 and November 2016, which is a period Pope Francis has designated as a “Holy Year.”

As a further indication of the disdain ISIS has for the Judeo-Christian world, another suspect in the plots, Abderrahmane Khachia, was heard stating that he wanted “to hit Israel in Rome” during surveillance, according to a report on the plots against Italy in the Jerusalem Post. Officials in Italy have determined this statement was referencing plots to attack the Israeli Embassy. In addition to the two above-mentioned men, two females, one the wife of Khachia and the other a female family member, were also arrested by officials in Italy for suspected involvement in the two ISIS plots.

When one examines the soundbites concerning the plots that have been made available to the public by the authorities in Italy, such as “[hitting] Israel in Rome” and the one below that is attributed to Moutahhrick, a reminder of historical wars is the result.

“For these enemies I swear if I manage to bring my family to safety, I swear I will be the first to attack…in this crusading Italy…the Vatican with the will of God.”

The words spoken by both men indicate a desire to renew the Holy Crusades of the Middle Ages — but in reverse. Their words and the belief that this is indeed the aim of ISIS plots in Italy and elsewhere is not new. Since the plots against Paris were carried out in November 2015, multiple indications of plots for a reverse crusade have arisen.

To understand the mentality of Islamic State supporters and their plots against Italy and the rest of Europe, it is important to understand the history of Muslim rule on the continent. Between the Moorish conquest of the Iberian peninsula during the 8th century and the conquest of Sicily in the 9th century, Muslims ruled on or near the European mainland for hundreds of years, including in southern Italy, which facilitated the sacking of Roman basilicas in 846 and of Pisa as late as the 11th century.

Since Spain’s Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, reconquered Spain in the late 1400s, the ousted Muslims have expressed strong desires to carry out plots to allow them to once again rule the Iberian peninsula. For ISIS, with strongholds in North Africa, which is separated from mainland Europe at the closest point by only 8.9 miles or 14.3 kilometers of sea, Europe is an understandably desirable territory, the reconquest of which would, in the minds of the Islamists, right old wrongs.

If the idea of a reverse crusade seems unbelievable, consider the number of recent uncovered plots and resulting arrests of ISIS sympathizers in Spain. According to a Newsweek report published on April 19, the spring of 2016 has seen a string of arrests throughout the country from Algeciras in the south to Valencia in the east to Mallorca, an island in the Mediterranean. In addition, Spanish authorities seized approximately 20,000 military accessories and uniforms in March after uncovering plots to distribute the items to jihadis in both Iraq and Syria.

No one wants to use a headline like “Italy uncovers plots” to spread fear to the public. However, it is imperative that the public, in Italy and throughout Europe and the West, remain vigilant and informed of uncovered ISIS plots, of the mentality ISIS supporters have, and of the threat of the Islamic State embarking on a reverse crusade.

[Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]