ROME – Terrorists once again threatened Italy and the Vatican with violence not long after jihadists in Barcelona, Spain, orchestrated a series of attacks that left 15 people dead and many more wounded.
“We will have our vengeance,” “We will arrive in Rome,” an Islamic terrorist said in a new video called ‘The Islamic State – Inside the Caliphate’ that was filmed in Marawi, Philippines, and distributed by al-Hayat, the pro-ISIS media organization.
In the video ISIS-sympathizers threaten the Vatican while destroying images of saints and the Virgin Mary as well as crucifixes. One man in the video rips a poster of Pope Francis in half.
A few days before, Telegram, the ‘app-of-choice’ for terrorists, incited Italian jihadists by naming Italy “the next target” after Barcelona. “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,” the U.S. website Site, which monitors jihadist activities on the web, reported.
On August 24 a picture showing a man holding a knife behind his back and looking toward a city started appearing around social media. On the picture there was the text in Italian “Devi combatterli,” (You must fight them) which according to Site was obviously directed toward jihadists living in Italy.
The image was taken from a December 2016 video shared by pro-ISIS social media accounts that offered instructions on how to commit acts of terrorism with easy-to-find tools, such as a knife or an automobile driven into the crowd. The image circling on social media these past two days is a freeze frame from that video, which had Italian subtitles.
Despite being constantly threatened by terrorist groups, Italy and the Vatican have not been the victims of the kind of terrorist attacks that have swept over other parts of Europe. This was possible in part because Italy, despite being a migrant gateway into Europe, does not have a large number of second or third generation immigrants, who have often been the perpetrators of terrorist acts in Europe when indoctrinated by ISIS recruiters.
Another factor has been the hardened, no-nonsense approach of the Italian police, which has been tempered by the political terrorism of the ‘Years of Lead’ in the 70s. Phone tapping regulation is also very lax in the country, allowing authorities to identify extremists quickly and more easily.
According to the Italian Minister of the Interior up to 70 suspected terrorists were deported in 2017 alone, and 202 have been sent back to their country of origin since 2015. The last to be arrested were three extremist Muslims from Morocco and Syria on August 19.
“It may be only a matter of time before such an attack takes place in Rome,” Commander Christoph Graf of the Swiss guards told the Swiss Catholic website cath.ch. “But we are prepared for it.”
Speaking at their 27th General Assembly in Solothurn on August 19-20, Graf said that Swiss guards, with their colorful uniform, swords and halberds, are not just a tourist attraction but a modernized troop capable of facing a terrorist attack if and when necessary.
Since the attacks in Barcelona, security has been tight in Rome and the Vatican. More snipers and armed policemen can be seen on Via della Conciliazione, the main artery that leads to St. Peter’s square, and many roads have been closed to traffic.