Reuters reported today that the Vatican security forces, the Swiss Guard, are preparing for a potential terrorist attack. The Swiss Guard is a force whose main role is papal protection. They originated in the 16th century, and the force has about 110 men who are all of Swiss nationality.
“It could perhaps be just a matter of time before there is such an attack in Rome, but we are prepared,” said Christoph Graf, the commandant of the Swiss Guard.
Graf, of course, is referring to the terrorist attack in Barcelona. He fears a Barcelona-style attack, where a car drives through a crowd, but the Swiss Guard aren't just waiting for the attack to happen.
"Security has been stepped up at religious sites throughout Italy, including at the Vatican, since last year, when a truck driven by a suspected Islamist militant killed 86 people in the French city of Nice," reports Reuters.
The guard has also placed barriers and police and army vehicles around St. Peter’s Basilica. The purpose of these barriers is to make it more difficult for a vehicle to gather speed. This would make an attack like the the one in Barcelona, which killed 13 people, less deadly.
In 2015, the Islamic State threatened Rome. During a video publicizing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya, one of the terrorists uttered a threat against the Vatican.
“Safety for you crusaders is something you can only wish for ... We will conquer Rome, by the will of Allah," he said.
Reuters also reports that around the same time, an Islamic militant website ran a photo montage that showed their black flag flying from the obelisk at the center of St Peter’s Square. This was also clearly a threat against the Vatican.
However, despite those threats from Islamic State, so far Rome and other Italian cities haven't had to experience the kind of attacks that happened in Nice, London, and Berlin. The Swiss Guard is trained in anti-terrorist and the use of modern weapons, so they are capable of protecting the Pope and those in the Vatican City.
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