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Police on Thursday detained a man who fired shots into the air outside the Italian consulate to protest an upcoming visit by Pope Benedict XVI, and the suspect later told a television reporter he wanted to "strangle" the pope with his bare hands.
"I don't want him here, if he was here now I would strangle him with my bare hands," the suspect, who identified himself as Ibrahim Ak, 26, told a Dogan news agency television cameraman as he was detained by police.
"I fired the shots for God," Ak said as he sat handcuffed inside a police van outside the consulate. "Inshallah (God willing), this will be a spark, a starter for Muslims."
"God willing, he will not come. If he comes, he will see what will happen to him," Ak said.
Benedict was scheduled to visit Turkey between Nov. 28 and Dec. 1.
It would be Benedict's first visit as pope to a predominantly Muslim country, just two months after he provoked widespread anger by quoting an emperor who characterized the Prophet Muhammad's teachings as "evil and inhuman."
The pope has since expressed regret for offending Muslims and called for dialogue with Islam.
"That shameless, dishonorable pope will not come to this country!" Ak shouted as police escorted him to a nearby police station in the crowded Beyoglu district for interrogation. "I'm telling all Muslims, he won't come!"
Security guards and police said the protester had tossed his gun into the garden of the Istanbul residence of the consul general, which is in the same compound as the consulate building, after firing at least two shots. The state-owned Anatolia news agency said the suspect's gun jammed at one point. He apparently tossed his gun after that.
"I'm a Turkish citizen, but before that, I'm a Muslim," Ak said.
The Vatican's chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, characterized the shooting incident as "an isolated fact, marginal, which won't have any influence on the preparations or climate surrounding the trip."