Argentine president says she was threatened by Islamic State
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Argentine president says she was threatened by Islamic State

Comment comes during meeting with Pope Francis, who visits Albania Sunday amid heightened security over reported jihadi threat

Pope Francis poses with Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (L) during a private audience at the Vatican on September 20, 2014. (photo credit: AFP Photo/Pool/Tony Gentile)
Pope Francis poses with Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (L) during a private audience at the Vatican on September 20, 2014. (photo credit: AFP Photo/Pool/Tony Gentile)

Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez said Saturday that she received threats from the extremist group Islamic State while visiting the Vatican for talks with Pope Francis.

Various security services have opened an investigation because “Islamic State threats had appeared against me,” Fernandez said, but added that she “would have to live under the bed” if she paid heed to the threats, Reuters reported on Sunday.

The president said that she was on the radar of Islamic State because of her relationship with Pope Francis, who hails from Argentina, and because she recognized both Palestine and Israel. She noted that during her discussions with the pope, “we defend things that upset some people.”

Last week, the Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican said that there were credible threats against the pope from Islamic State terrorists pegged to Sunday’s visit by Francis to Albania, but the Vatican reportedly did not plan to change the pope’s security procedures during his visit.

Some fear that Francis may have agitated the jihadi group by responding to a question about US airstrikes against IS with an answer that could be perceived as tacit support for Washington.

Albania tightened security before his arrival, raising the police force alert to its highest level and mobilizing special forces across the country amid warnings that Islamic State jihadists could be planning an attack on the Catholic leader.

Francis will meet with Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox, Bektashi, Jewish and Protestant leaders while in Tirana.

The Vatican has insisted it has not increased security for the trip, but Albania’s interior ministry said police have set up 29 checkpoints in downtown Tirana, where most of the pope’s activities were planned, including at the Mother Teresa square.

Some Vatican watchers fear Francis has made himself a target by speaking out against the Islamic State organization.

But the Argentine pontiff, who loves more than anything to mingle with the crowds, will use the same open-topped vehicle he uses in Saint Peter’s Square.

Despite being one of Europe’s poorest countries, Albania last month began sending weapons and ammunition to Kurdish forces fighting IS militants in Iraq, and security sources in the country have brushed off fears of home-grown militants planning an attack.

Francis met Kirchner on Saturday for a closed-door Vatican meeting focused largely on the theme of economic injustice, as Buenos Aires fights hedge fund creditors.

Kirchner, whose center-left government is mired in a bitter US court battle with what it terms “vulture fund” creditors, met privately with her compatriot for 15 minutes before they exchanged gifts and lunched together at the Casa Santa Marta, the pope’s residence.

“The pope received me with the same warmth as always,” Kirchner told journalists after what was her fourth meeting with the 77-year-old pontiff.

The meeting was seen as a sign of support for the Argentine leader, invited personally by the pope just days before she addresses the United Nations General Assembly in a bid to tackle creditor sharks.

The AFP contributed to this report.

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