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ISIS Targets Pope Francis; Italy Deemed As Strategic Point Of Attack

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By Athena Yenko | September 1, 2014 10:15 AM EST

The Islamic States' next target is Pope Francis as the group deems Italy a highly strategic point of attack.

An Italian intelligence agency had purportedly found information that the ISIS is targeting the Pope as he bears false witness against Islam and serves as the "greatest exponent of the Christian religions," an Italian newspaper, Il Tempo, reported on August 25.

Reuters
Pope Francis talks to a reporter at the end of the general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican August 27, 2014.

On August 26, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., spokesman to Vatican, said that the report was no reason for concern.

"There is nothing serious to this. There is no particular concern in the Vatican. This news has no foundation," the spokesman told the Catholic News Agency.

However, an Italian intelligence contact told Newsweek correspondent, Nicholas Farrell, that ISIS is not attempting to assassinate Pope Francis so far because the group perceives Italy as a tactical base of terrorist attack.

"The pope is the firing line as he always has been... Islamists have not attempted to assassinate the Pope or blow up St Peter's so far because the Islamists regard Italy as a strategic place to launch attacks... not the main enemy like America or Britain. The Pope and Vatican are not number one targets because the Islamists want to keep Italy sweet - to use Italy as base rather than a target," Farrell reported.

In the days following the news of Pope Francis being ISIS' next target, Italian newspapers continue to report about the heightened security measures being implemented around Italy and the Vatican.

Italy's deputy interior minister Filippo Bubbico had reportedly issued a terrorism alert aimed at embassies, churches, public transport terminals, sea ports and travel agencies. Authorities were also increasing security on air space above Vatican City and Italy's foreign ministry.

Important tourist destinations, such as the Coliseum, the Spanish Steps and St. Peter's Square are also in heightened security, Bubbico told Italian SKY News.

"ISIS poses an international and European security threat and we in Italy feel particularly exposed," he said.

Following the implementation of heightened security, 5 suspected jihadists were apprehended in Venice; 50 Italians (between the ages of 18-25) were confirmed to be fighting with the ISIS - from which 80 percent are "very Italian" and 20 percent are immigrants, Italy's major newspaper Corriere della Sera  reported.

In an interview with La Repubblica, top jihad recruiter, Imam Bilal Bosnic, expressed the group's vision on Vatican.

"We Muslims believe that one day the whole world will be an Islamic state. Our goal is to make sure that even the Vatican will be Muslim. Maybe I will not be able to see it, but that time will come," he told the newspaper.

The Australian Government advised to exercise normal safety precautions when travelling to Italy.

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(Photo: Reuters / Max Rossi)
Pope Francis talks to a reporter at the end of the general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican August 27, 2014.
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