Terror suspects planned Vatican attack
24 April 2015, 19:02
Milan - Islamic extremists suspected in a bomb attack in a Pakistani market that killed more than 100 people had also planned an attack against the Vatican in 2010 that was never carried out, an Italian prosecutor said Friday.
Wiretaps collected as part of investigation into an Islamic terror network operating in Italy gave "signals of some preparation for a possible attack" at the Vatican, prosecutor Mauro Mura told a news conference in Cagliari, Sardinia. That included the arrival of a suicide bomber in Rome. He eventually left Italy, Mura said, although it wasn't clear why.
The revelation about the planned attack against the Vatican came Friday as police said they were arresting 18 suspected extremists, including two purported bodyguards for Osama bin Laden, accused of staging attacks in Pakistan aimed at stopping that government's actions against the Taliban.
At the time of the suspected plot to bomb the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI was still reeling from the effects in the Muslim world of a 2006 speech in Regensburg, Germany, in which he quoted a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman," particularly "his command to spread by the sword the faith."
While relations with the Muslim world were eventually repaired, tensions flared again in 2011 when Cairo's al-Azhar institute, the pre-eminent theological school of Sunni Islam, suspended interfaith talks with the Vatican after Benedict called for greater protections for Egypt's minority Christians.
More recently, Italian officials have made clear they take seriously the threat of the Islamic State group to conquer Rome and the seat of Christianity. Security has been beefed up at the Vatican and the head of the Swiss Guards has said they are ready but that they have no information about an imminent threat.
Pope Francis himself has said he realizes he may be a target but that he fears mostly for the innocent crowds who come to see him every time he's in public.
The investigation was launched in 2005, but Mura said it was slowed when news of the investigation leaked to the media, alerting the suspects that they were being watched.
Authorities said some of the suspects sought in the probe were responsible for "numerous bloody acts of terrorism in Pakistan," including the October 2009 explosion in a market in Peshawar in which more than 100 people died. Telephone wiretaps indicated that two of the suspects were part of a network of people who protected bin Laden in Pakistan, a police statement said.
Police said the aim of the terror network was to create an insurrection against the Pakistani government.For the latest on national news, politics, sport, entertainment and more follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page!