A media group allied with the Islamic State has released a new poster depicting a beheaded Pope Francis, just days after it disseminated an image featuring a masked man driving towards Vatican City's St. Peter's Basilica.
The gruesome image from the Wafa Media Foundation featured an ISIS fighter leaning over the decapitated body of the pontiff with his name, "Jorge Mario Bergoglio," written next to the head.
"I swear to avenge every single drop of blood that you spilled and every house that you have destroyed," the caption on the photo reads, according to International Business Times.
"I swear that you will taste the bitterness of the cups of death and make your feasts massacres. You will not even enjoy living in your homes, Allah Willing," it added.
In a previous poster disseminated by the same group, a masked figure is seen driving toward St. Peter's Basilica with a gun and a backpack inside the vehicle. The top of the poster was captioned with the message "Christmas blood" with the line "so wait..." written in red underneath.
Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence Group, told Newsweek that it is not unusual for the group to issue such threats, especially during the holiday season.
"ISIS and its supporters know how to play the media game, and often time the releases of their threats to get the highest amount of attention as possible," she said.
"Though the group always issues threats to Christians, a group like Wafa may naturally want to ramp up such messages leading into Christians' biggest holiday," she continued.
PJ Media noted that the terror group had carried out several attacks during the holiday season, including the 2015 attack on San Bernardino County Christmas party by Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, as well as the truck attack on the Berlin Christmas market by Anis Amri last year.
The Vatican had stepped up its security in the area surrounding St. Peters Square due to the rise of terrorist attacks across Europe.
In August, an ISIS-linked group in the Philippines released a video showing a terrorist tearing an image of Francis in half and calling on supporters to drive cars into the crowds in the Vatican.
The pope's top aide, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said at the time that he was worried about the threat, but to his knowledge, no new particular security measures were put in place as a direct result of the video.
Paloma García Ovejero, the pope's deputy spokesperson, noted that the security measures were not raised that time because the "controls are already very high."
She assured that the pilgrims and tourists at St. Peter's Square are "always very well protected," and added that the headquarters of the Catholic church are protected by "heavily qualified men."
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