Homeland Security

ISIS Group Issues Pair of Assassination Threats to Pope Francis

Manchester, UK. Police and other emergency services are seen near the Manchester Arena after reports of an explosion. Police have confirmed they are responding to an incident during an Ariana Grande concert at the venue. Reported Explosion at Manchester Arena, UK - 22 May 2017 (Rex Features via AP Images)

An ISIS-supporting media group has issued two assassination threats against Pope Francis in the past several days in what could be a revival of last year’s holiday push by the terror group for violence against the Vatican and Catholic Church.

The online depictions were released by Al-Abd Al-Faqir, a prolific ISIS media group that this month threatened grenade attacks at music venues.

The first poster, released last week, warned “slaves of the Cross” as a masked gunman in a striped polo shirt and khakis is depicted sneaking up behind the pope, who is facing the “wall of death” at Auschwitz.

The newer image this week uses a photo of Pope Francis’ July 2016 visit to Auschwitz, adding an assassin wearing an ISIS wristband pointing a handgun at the pontiff.

“Don’t think you are away from our attacks,” says the text on the image.

Last November, the ISIS-supporting Wafa’ Media Foundation circulated a poster depicting a vehicle moving toward the Vatican with a cache of weapons, vowing “Christmas blood.”

“So wait…” were the only other words on the image, an illustration showing the point of view of an unseen driver as his BMW approached St. Peter’s Basilica in the evening with an unobstructed view driving down Via della Conciliazione. In the passenger seat: a rifle, a handgun and a backpack. In the rearview mirror, a masked face.

Then the group released a “beheading” image of Pope Francis, with a jihadist standing over the orange-jumpsuited body of a prisoner with his hands behind his back, chest-down on the ground on a dirt street. “Jorge Mario Bergoglio,” the pope’s name, was written next to the head.

That was followed by Wafa’ releasing the image of a lone jihadist with a backpack, rocket-propelled grenade and rifle at the jihadist’s side as storm clouds gather over a twilight St. Peter’s Square.

In a message to fellow jihadists, the group notes that “the crusaders’ feast is approaching.”

The message ran on with no punctuation: “Their convoys will crowd itself in front of you prepare and plan for them show them the meaning of terrorism kill them and do not hold back with your blood the reward is paradise and let them know that you are from an ummah [Muslim community] where mountains bow down to we will not forget our revenge for every drop of blood that they have shed we will not exclude the young, elderly or women you are all in the crosshairs of our arrows and what is about to come is more even worse.”

Wafa’ also released an image of smoke rising from Rome with a fighter jet overhead and a jihadist standing next to the sort of makeshift armored vehicle ISIS uses for suicide bombings in Iraq and Syria. “The date is approaching o worshippers of the cross,” stated the message on the image.

An early ISIS e-book detailed the terror group’s strategy to sack the Vatican and predicted mob bosses would put up tough resistance: “There is no doubt that if Muslims want to take over Italy, the Islamic State European fighters will have to ally with other militias to fight the Mafia before the conquest of Rome.”

While ISIS still distributes propaganda including video, audio, stories and photos through the group’s official propaganda channels, ISIS-supporting media groups have picked up the lion’s share of grass-roots incitement and recruitment by pushing suggested attack methods and targets and speaking to Western jihadists.

In January, Al-Abd Al-Faqir depicted the invasion of Washington and in February declared “Paris before Rome,” depicting a terrorist invasion that began with cells in the countryside outside Paris before attacking the city.

A March video depicting a global caliphate showed a Facebook-style profile of “John Stephen,” a white man with a closely trimmed beard using an image of the White House exploding in flames as his banner photo.

This April, in English, French and Arabic, Al-Faqir threatened attacks on commercial air travel. Preceding this summer’s World Cup, another poster from the media group depicted a jihadist standing among the spectators at a soccer match with a grenade in hand. “Victory will be ours,” it said.

Another Al-Faqir poster showed a Molotov-cocktail-wielding man clad in a black hoodie, vowing in English and Russian “we will turn your night into fires.”