A pro-Islamic State group called the Wafa Media Foundation has released a poster urging its lone-wolf supporters to launch an attack targeting the Vatican on Christmas, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.
The Wafa Media Foundation poster reported by SITE featured a car being driven into St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City with wordings that called on the group's followers to attack the Italian church on Christmas. The release of the image came at the heels of ISIS' military defeat in Iraq and Syria, Newsweek noted.
While some people thought it was unlikely that ISIS forces would be able to penetrate either Rome or the Vatican so soon after its defeat, experts also said it was important to take the threat seriously. The militant group's propaganda machine is still strong despite its loss in the Middle East, and it is now relying increasingly on lone wolves to attack its targets.
"Wafa Media Foundation specializes in these types of graphics," SITE director Rita Katz told Newsweek. "Wafa's threat, like others recently issued by pro-ISIS media groups, is a specific attack directive within a larger push by ISIS for lone wolf attacks as it rapidly loses territory in Iraq and Syria."
In August, the head of the Vatican's Swiss Guard told cath.ch that it was only "a matter of time" before ISIS attacks Rome. Nevertheless, Commander Christophe Graf said they were ready for such an incident, the Christian Broadcasting Network reported.
ISIS reportedly considers it important to conquer Rome, as doing so would fulfill a prophecy by Muhammad and pave the way for the Muslim messiah to return. "The Complete Infidel's Guide to ISIS" author Robert Spencer explained that the militant group was hoping that the Armageddon would happen by 2025, but it will not come until they take over Rome.
It is also worth noting that ISIS forces in the Philippines previously released a video where they destroyed a church and also pointed a gun at an image of Pope Francis. In the same clip, the jihadists vowed to make an appearance in Rome.