Italy has ramped up its security in the wake of some Rome media reports that Islamic State terrorists have set their sights on Pope Francis and threatened to do him harm because of his rally call for the world to subdue the group.
Il Tempo published a report that said the pope is “in the crosshairs” of the Islamic State for “bearing false witness” against Islam — a charge that carries severe punishment and even death.
The newspaper cited anonymous sources among Italy’s intelligence agencies and reported the nation has gone on heightened alert.
The paper also reported that the Islamic State apparently has plans to raise “the level of confrontation” with Europe, Italy and the pope, called the “greatest exponent of the Christian religions,” the Daily Beast reported.
The Vatican, meanwhile, is playing down that report.
“There is nothing serious to this,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardo told Catholic News Agency. “There is no particular concern in the Vatican.”
Yet Italy’s Deputy Interior Minister Filippo Bubbico said both the nation and the Vatican face equal risk, and government officials have issued a terrorism alert, the Daily Beast reported.
The alert warns that the Islamic State is looking to attack “sensitive targets” both in and out of Rome, including embassies, Catholic churches, bus and train stations, airports and the like. And officials have put in place flight restrictions over Vatican City and over Italy’s foreign ministry, the Daily Beast reported.
“ISIS poses an international and European security threat, and we in italy feel particularly exposed,” Mr. Bubbico said to Italy’s SKY news.