The Vatican is on alert in case of an attack by Islamist militants against the city-state or Pope Francis, but officials are not aware of any specific plot, the head of Vatican security said in a rare interview.
'The threat exists. This is what has emerged from conversations with Italian and foreign colleagues,' Domenico Giani told an Italian police magazine when asked if threats from Islamic State militants were credible.
'(But) at the moment I can say that we are not aware of any plan to attack the Vatican or the Holy Father,' he added in the interview, published on the magazine's website on Monday.
Giani has a force of some 130 agents protecting most of the Vatican and the Pope, with the help of the more ceremonial Swiss Guard. The Italian police guard the exterior, as well as St. Peter's Square.
Twenty of his agents, Giani explained, have specialist anti-terror training and guard the Pope when he's abroad.
He told Polizia Moderna: 'Twenty Vatican bodyguards have received special training that makes them suitable also ready to use in anti-terrorist actions. Some of them accompany the Pope during his international travels.'
The security operation at the Vatican is aided by a command and control centre that Giani says has a 'high level' of technology, along with thousands of surveillance cameras.