Italian Police have arrested four suspected Islamist terrorists Tuesday who were reportedly planning an attack on Pope Francis.
The arrests were a cooperative effort between the Italy’s Counterterrorism Agents and the Kosovo police, and took place both in Italy and Kosovo Tuesday.
Police conducted simultaneous raids in the Italian cities of Brescia, Vicenza and Perugia, as well as one raid in Kosovo. The four people arrested are being charged with participation in a terror network with specific intent to target the Pope as well as incitement of racial hatred. Along with the arrests, police confiscated written materials and weapons.
The man considered the leader of the cell, Imishiti Samet, a Kosovar citizen who lived for some time in Italy, was arrested in Kosovo, while the other three were arrested in Italy. Samet had posted on his Facebook page: “Paris is in mourning, lights out on the Eiffel Tower, 158 dead, this is only the beginning.”
According to a police report, the group of suspected terrorists were “highly dangerous” and had “established direct links with jihadist networks active in Syria,” including the deceased Islamic State terrorist Lavdrim Muhaxheri.
The terrorist team also “propagated jihadist ideology through social networks,” police said, as well as proclaiming on social media that Francis would be “the last pope.”
“They threatened Pope Bergoglio, praised the recent Paris bombings and threatened the former U.S. Ambassador in Kosovo,” said Carmine Esposito, the superintendent of Brescia.
In recent weeks the Italian government has added police and army units to patrol the streets in Rome, after Islamist terrorists carried out deadly attacks in Paris on November 13, leaving 130 dead and hundreds more wounded.
The Islamic State subsequently released a video announcing that Rome and Washington D.C. would be two of their next targets. “By Allah, if we brought down France in its homeland, in Paris, then we swear, by the command of Allah, we will attack America in its heartland, in Washington, Allah permitting, and we will invade Rome, Allah permitting,” militants said in a video released on November 16.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome