Vatican officials warned Saturday that a pro-ISIS jihadist video and text messages threatened Pope Francis and marked Italy as the Islamic State’s next target.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state and second highest official of the Holy See, said that the latest video clearly marked Francis as a target, according to The Associated Press. The video depicted jihadists destroying various Catholic icons, a man ripping a poster of Francis in half, and a terrorist saying “We will have our vengeance …We will arrive in Rome,” according to Crux Now.
Parolin said that while the Vatican already has strong security measures in place, the video was nonetheless troubling.
“Obviously, one cannot help but worry, above all for the senseless hatred that it is,” Parolin said.
Jihadists filmed the video ‘The Islamic State – Inside the Caliphate” in the Philippines and used the ISIS-affiliated company al-Hayat to distribute it.
ISIS agents sent used various venues to encourage attacks in Italy days before the video threatening Francis was released. They sent a message via the app Telegram to lone-wolf terrorists indicating Italy as their next target. Jihadists also circulated a picture of a man with a knife behind his back, facing Italy, with the text “Devi combatterli,” which means “you must fight them.”
“The channel urged lone wolves to hit specific targets, after having explicitly threatened Italy a few days ago, to attack with vehicles there as well as in Belgium and Denmark,” reported Site Intelligence Group, which reports online extremist activity.
Both Rome and the Vatican made noted increases in security after the Barcelona attacks, according to Crux, despite Parolin’s statement that the Vatican had not strengthened their security measures. Authorities have closed more roads to traffic and placed more snipers and armed guards along the main road leading to St. Peter’s square. Cmdr. Christoph Graf of the Swiss Guards, who guard the Vatican, said the Vatican is ready to stave off an attack like the one in Barcelona.
“It may be only a matter of time before such an attack takes place in Rome,” Graf told Cath.ch. “But we are prepared for it.”
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