The Markaz was acting on behalf of the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People, which is headed by Osama bin Laden.
The issue of the fatwa came a few days before the latest video message by Osama's deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, in which he made a severe attack on the Pope.
A report on the the fatwa, carried by the Pakistani journal Ausaf in its September 18 edition, says: 'Pakistan's Jamaat-ud-Dawa has issued a fatwa asking the Muslim community to kill Pope Benedict for his blasphemous statement about Prophet Mohammad.
'The Jamaat-ud-Dawa has declared death to Pope Benedict and said that in today's world blasphemy of the Holy Koran and the Prophet has become a fashion. The leaders of the Jamaat were speaking at a Martyrs' Islamic Conference in Karachi. Prominent Jamaat leader Hafiz Saifullah Khalid said that in the present circumstances, jihad has become obligatory for each Muslim. Muslims are being declared terrorists and our battle for survival has already started. The Muslim world has rejected the Pope's apology and decided to continue protests and demonstrations in big cities.
'The Pope's apology is just a drama and no political leader has any power to pardon him. It is part of a crusade initiated by the US in the name of terrorism. Instead of accepting fake apologies, Muslims should realise Europe's enmity towards Islam and Muslim Ummah should prepare itself to defend its faith. Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader Hafiz Abdur Rahman Makki said the West and Europe have started a campaign against the Holy Koran and the Prophet and have abused jihad. We should take appropriate steps to deal with the champions of crusade. It is time for Muslim leaders to open their eyes and understand that the West had never been a friend of the Muslims and will never be so,' it concludes.
In his video message disseminated through the Internet on September 29, al-Zawahiri called Pope Benedict XVI a 'charlatan' and stated that the Pope 'accused Islam of being incompatible with rationality while forgetting that his own Christianity is unacceptable to a sensible mind.'
The Lashkar has secret cells in the United Kingdom and France, but there is no confirmed information of any activity in Italy so far. It is likely that the task of executing this fatwa might be entrusted to one of its cells in the UK or France.
The US State Department categorises the Markaz-ud-Dawa as well as the Lashkar as terrorist organisations. But Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf has rejected this, saying the Markaz-ud-Dawa has nothing to do with the Lashkar, and that it is an Islamic charity organisation which has been doing humanitarian relief work in Pakistan.
The media had recently reported that a move in the UN Security Council to order the freezing of the accounts of the Markaz-ud-Dawa under Security Council Resolution 1373 failed because of Chinese opposition. According to the media, China supported Pakistan's contention that the Markaz-ud-Dawa is not a terrorist organisation.