If ISIS were to attack the Vatican, it would be an enormous mistake that would isolate the Islamists and cut off their funding, a former Palestinian terrorist has said.
Khaled Ibrahim Mahmoud, the only survivor of four terrorists who carried out a brutal attack on an Israeli airline desk at Rome’s Fiumicino airport nearly 30 years ago, said a terrorist attack on the Vatican would be a “huge mistake.”
He told the Italian daily Il Messaggero on Sunday: “Carnage in the state, which is the symbol of Christianity in the world, would isolate the ISIS terrorists when, instead, they need support and funding."
On Dec. 27, 1985, Khaled, then 18, armed with a Kalashnikov rifle, took part in the assault at the El Al airport. The attack, along with a simultaneous shooting at Vienna airport, killed 16 and injured up to 100. The assailants were part of the Abu Nidal Palestinian terrorist group.
Several Italian newspapers reported earlier this month that the CIA and Israel's Mossad had told the Vatican could be a target.
Concerns were raised in early January after three Muslim extremists killed 17 people in shootings at the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery market in the city. Police killed all three men, who had been linked to al Qaeda in Yemen and ISIS.
But the Vatican has denied the reports. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi issued a statement Jan. 12 saying that “contrary to the claims made by some organs of the media, the Holy See has not been informed of specific risks by the security services of other countries.”
He said the Holy See “maintains its usual, appropriate contacts with the security services and, in view of the current situation, advises a reasonable level of attention and prudence, but concrete and specific risks have not been indicated.”
Lombardi said there is “therefore no reason to arouse concerns that may needlessly affect both those who live and work in the Vatican and the many pilgrims and tourists who visit on a daily basis.”
Diego Parente, Rome's police chief, has said that although no specific plot has been uncovered, the city is aware it could be targeted. Italian broadcaster RAI reported that all security measures at the Vatican have been revised and upgraded. They have also been stepped up at the city’s churches, embassies, monuments, press offices, and schools.
ISIS has threatened the Vatican before. Last July, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed leader of ISIS, vowed to lead a conquest of Rome.
In his interview with Il Messaggero, Khaled, who was injured by security forces and captured, said he continues to “think of those who are dead.” Among the victims was the daughter of AP's former Rome correspondent.
“I always think about them,“ he said. “I finished off their lives, but also mine.”
Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.
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