SECURITY AND THE VATICAN – EMBASSY URGES CAUTION IN WORLDWIDE SECURITY MESSAGE TO U.S. CITIZENS

SECURITY AND THE VATICAN

(ANSA) – Vatican City, January 12 – The Vatican on Monday denied reports that it has been alerted that it could be the next target of Islamist terrorists after last week’s attacks in France and called on the media not to feed alarmism. Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the Holy See had not received “reports of specific risks” from foreign security agencies. “So it is not opportune to feed groundless concerns,” he added.

(VIS) – Vatican City, January 12, 2015 – The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., gave the following declaration to journalists today: “Contrary to the claims made by some organs of the media, the Holy See has not been informed of specific risks by the security services of other countries. The Holy See maintains its usual, appropriate contacts with the security services, and in view of the current situation advises a reasonable level of attention and prudence, but concrete and specific risks have not been indicated. There is therefore no reason to arouse concerns that may needlessly affect both those who live and work in the Vatican and the many pilgrims and tourists who visit on a daily basis.”

(ANSA) (cont’d) – Israeli State television reported that American intelligence services have warned the Vatican that it could be the next target for Islamist terrorists on Sunday, as international leaders joined around two million people taking part in a massive anti-terrorism rally in Paris.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said Monday the Italian authorities had found no confirmation to the reports either. “We have done checks in the reporting system with the security authorities of other countries as it is not the case for us,” Alfano said. The minister stressed, however, that the level of alert was high as the Vatican is a potential target. “Unfortunately, the Vatican has been mentioned many times by ISIS,” he said. “That’s why we don’t underestimate any hypothesis, not even the most tenuous.”

Alfano’s words echoed statements given earlier on Monday by Diego Parente, the head of the Rome section of the Italian police’s DIGOS anti-terror squad. “At the moment there is no confirmation about the threats to the Vatican, but the level of alert is at the maximum,” Parente said. “There is not yet any confirmation of this latest alarm.” Parente said that the authorities have beefed up security measures in Rome’s Jewish quarter and around the city’s Jewish school in the wake of the attacks. “(Security) services have been redesigned and strengthened outside all the sensitive (potential) targets,” Parente said. He added that these included embassies, monuments, place of worship and offices of news organisations and broadcasters.

EMBASSY URGES CAUTION IN WORLDWIDE SECURITY MESSAGE TO U.S. CITIZENS

(Here, in part, is the message that the U.S. Embassy in Rome sent today to citizens living in Italy who have registered with the Embassy. U.S. embassies around the world will send similar or identical messages to citizens registered in the country where the embassy is located. Such notices are also sent to citizens who register with STEP (see final paragraph):

Worldwide Caution

Last Updated: January 9, 2015

“The Department of State is updating the Worldwide Caution to provide information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world. Recent terrorist attacks, whether by those affiliated with terrorist entities, copycats, or individual perpetrators, serve as a reminder that U.S. citizens need to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness. This replaces the Worldwide Caution dated October 10, 2014.

“The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. On September 22, 2014, the United States and regional partners commenced military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated terrorist organization in Syria and Iraq. In response to the airstrikes, ISIL called on supporters to attack foreigners wherever they are. Authorities believe there is an increased likelihood of reprisal attacks against U.S., Western and coalition partner interests throughout the world, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Asia.

“Kidnappings and hostage events involving U.S. citizens have become increasingly prevalent as ISIL, al Qa`ida and its affiliates have increased attempts to finance their operations through kidnapping for ransom operations. ISIL, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are particularly effective with kidnapping for ransom and are using ransom money to fund the range of their activities. Kidnapping targets are usually Western citizens from governments or third parties that have established a pattern of paying ransoms for the release of individuals in custody.

“Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests. Examples of such targets include high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, shopping malls, and other tourist destinations both in the United States and abroad where U.S. citizens gather in large numbers, including during holidays.

“U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure. Extremists have targeted and attempted attacks on subway and rail systems, aviation, and maritime services. In the past, these types of attacks have occurred in cities such as Moscow, London, Madrid, Glasgow, and New York City.”

The Message continues by looking at specific regions of the world (though not specific threats), including Europe, Middle East and North Africa, Africa, South Asia, Central Asia, East Asia and the Pacific.

The embassy also advises the following (in part):

“BEFORE YOU GO

“The Department of State urges U.S. citizens living overseas or planning to travel abroad to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  When you enroll in STEP, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.  Enrolling will also make it easier for the Embassy to contact you in the event of an emergency.  You should remember to keep all of your information in STEP up to date; it is particularly important when you enroll or update your information to include a current phone number and e-mail address.”

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