- - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Last month on Free Fire we discussed the possibility of an Islamic State attack on Italy. As of March 2nd, the inspector general of the Vatican Gendarmes, Domenico Giani, officially confirmed that ISIS presents a real threat to Pope Francis, citing information relayed to him by Italian and other countries’ security services. That said, Giani states that there is no known evidence that ISIS is currently intending to carry out an attack on the Vatican.

Such concern is well founded, however, with the October 2014 issue of the Islamic State’s propaganda magazine, Dabiq, featuring the Islamic State flag flying in St. Peter’s Square and quoting ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani saying:

“We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah, the Exalted … If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria also recently published an article titled “Black Flags From Rome,” which explains to the reader the strategy behind attacks to subvert Europe, such as using small, loosely organized cells purchasing arms and supplies from criminal smuggling rings. The article notes the attack carried out by the Kouachi brothers as an example of such a plan.

Of note in “Black Flags From Rome” is the attention paid to Italy. Italy is cited as a prime source of acquiring illegal weaponry due to its Mafia tradition and the fact that is a conduit between the Balkans and Western Europe.

Interestingly enough, the “Black Flags” article includes claims that far-left radicals may be close allies of jihadists due to common enemies, quoting from an Investigative Project on Terrorism article discussing the possibility. The article noted a wiretapped conversation between Italian communist militant Alfredo Davanzo and other members of the New Red Brigade terrorist organization, which discussed efforts at conducting recruitment through Islamist organizations thanks to a common anti-Israel and anti-war views. New Red Brigade sympathizers have also protested anti-terrorism legislation with signs written in both Italian and Arabic.

Additionally, reports continue to raise the specter of increased Islamic State activity in Libya. Authorities have warned repeatedly that Libya represents a potential launching pad for attacks on Europe. As long as that remains the case, Italy, which Winston Churchill once called “The soft underbelly of Europe,” remains very much at risk.

Sean MacCormac is a research analyst at the Center for Security Policy.

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