Rome: In what could draw global attention, the Iraqi ambassador to Vatican, Habeeb Al Sadr, has told an Italian newspaper that the Islamic State may target Pope Francis in bid to expand its terror wings, reports stated on Tuesday.
According to The Telegraph, Sadr has told La Nazione, an Italian daily that, "What has been declared by the self-declared Islamic State is clear – they want to kill the Pope. The threats against the Pope are credible.”
Meanwhile, official statement issued from Vatican reveals that Pope, who is scheduled to visit the Muslim-majority country of Albania this week, has refused to have any additional security and will use the same open-topped Jeep which he uses at the Vatican during his single-day trip.
"There are no specific threats or risks that would change the Pope's behaviour or the way the trip is organised," said Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.
The Pope had earlier backed the decision of using force to stop Islamic Militants who are terrorising religious minorities in Iraq.
The leader of the world`s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics made his comments in an hour-long conversation with reporters aboard a plane returning from a trip to South Korea that ranged from international diplomacy to his health and future travel plans.
During the encounter that has become a tradition at the end of his foreign journeys, Francis, 77, also said he planned to visit the United States next year and that he was ready to go to China "tomorrow" if the communist government allowed him.
He said he realised he had to slow down and be more "prudent" with his health and that he had learned how to handle the super-star status he has gained since coming to office last year by thinking of his errors and his own imminent mortality.
Francis was asked if he approved of U.S. strikes against Islamic State insurgents who have recently forced Christians and other minorities to flee their homes in Iraq.
"In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression I can only say that it is legitimate to stop the unjust aggressor," he said.
Proclaiming a caliphate straddling Iraq and Syria, the militants have swept across northern Iraq, pushing back Kurdish regional forces and driving tens of thousands of Christians and members of the Yazidi religious minority from their homes.
The pope was careful not to give the impression that he was giving an automatic green light for military strikes, but he did not rule them out. He said the situation was grave and the international community had to respond together.
"I underscore the verb `to stop`. I am not saying `bomb` or `make war`, but stop him (the aggressor). The means by which he can be stopped must be evaluated. Stopping the unjust aggressor is legitimate," he said.
"One single nation cannot judge how he is to be stopped, how an unjust aggressor is to be stopped," he said. He said the United Nations was the proper forum to consider whether there was unjust aggression and how to stop it.
(With Reuters inputs)