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Monday, September 18, 2006

Al Qaeda in Iraq threatens the Vatican

Baghdad, 18 Sept. (AKI) - Al Qaeda in Iraq threatened the Vatican in a web message posted Monday in response to comments on Islam made last week by Pope Benedict XVI. "We will smash the cross ... (you will have no choice but) Islam or death," said the statement attributed to the Mujahedeen consultative council, al-Qaeda's militant group in Iraq. The statement cited a hadith (saying of the Prophet Mohammed) promising Muslims they would "conquer Rome ... as they conquered Costantinople."

Two other terror groups in Iraq - Jaish al-Mujahedeen (the Mujahedeen's Army) and Asaeb al-Iraq al-Jihadiya (League of Jihadists in Iraq) have also threatened the Vatican in messages posted on the internet.

In the controversial speech made last Tuesday at Regensburg University, in his native Germany, Benedict XVI quoted 14th-century Emperor Manual II Paleologos of the Byzantine Empire, the Orthodox Christian empire which had its capital in what is now the Turkish city of Istanbul.

"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," the pope said. "He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached'."

In the statement posted on the Internet, the Mujahedeen consultative council also said that "after the crusader, the foolish (US president George W.) Bush announced a new campaign against Islam and started the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the pope, the servant of the cross, attacked Islam like Bush and offended the Prophet in his speech on jihad."

On Sunday, Benedict XVI apologised for offending Muslims with the speech, stressing that the medieval text he quoted did not in any way express his personal opinion.
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