Unconfirmed reports suggest 18-year-old Australian Jake Bilardi has been involved in a suicide attack in Iraq.
“This is a horrific situation, an absolutely horrific situation,” the prime minister told reporters in Melbourne.
“It’s very, very important that we do everything we can to try to safeguard our young people against the lure of this shocking, alien and extreme ideology.”
Teenager Jake Bilardi from Craigieburn was recently identified as the young man shown in an image published in December, holding an assault rifle in front of an IS flag.
Propaganda images are now circulating on the Internet, claiming to show a suicide bomber, dubbed Abu Abdullah al-Australi — Bilardi’s pseudonym— before an attack on an Iraqi army unit in Anbar province west of Baghdad.
Fairfax quotes a Twitter account associated with IS, which has tweeted a photograph of Bilardi sitting underneath an IS flag, with the caption: “For today’s Martyrs”.
The authenticity of the images has not yet been verified.
Seven almost simultaneous suicide car bombs in Ramadi on Wednesday killed at least 10 people and wounded 30, police and medics said.
Australian Jake on a suicide attack in ramadi. Another proof of Daesh is using foreign recruits as cannon fodder. pic.twitter苏州皮肤管理,/tSk8ubmjjL
— Issa (@issa_kobani) March 11, 2015
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it’sdifficult to confirm deaths of Australians in the region.
“The Australian government’s capacity to confirm reports of deaths in either Syria or Iraq is extremely limited,” DFAT said in a statement.
“Due to the extremely dangerous security situation, consular assistance is no longer available within Syria.”
It says Australians involved in overseas conflicts are “putting their own lives in mortal danger”.
“Any Australians fighting with non-state militia in Syria or Iraq should end their involvement in the conflict now and leave the conflict zone.”
‘Shy maths whizz’
Previous reports in Australian media describe Jake Bilardi as a shy, maths whizz who dropped out of high school last year after converting to Islam and bought a one way ticket to Istanbul, before travelling to Iraq and Syria to fight for the so-called caliphate.
Last December a picture emerged on Twitter showing the teen sitting between two bearded men and holding an assault rifle.
He was wrongly identified as British after his photograph hit Twitter, and a user identified the young man “Jonathan Edwards”. The tweet said he had “applied for Ucas (Britain’s Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) to [sic] late and wasn’t accepted in any university, so he joined the Islamic state”.
After Britain’s Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph newspapers ran the story, Abu Dawud laughed that the had “trolled” and “humiliated” the British media, by making up the story.
Mum’s death triggered ‘search for answers’
It’s understood Jake came from a non-Muslim family.
Family members have previously said he became radicalised when he went “searching for answers” after the death of his mother.
He was a regular visitor at an Islamic Youth centre in Melbourne’s northern suburbs for between 9 and 12-months before he left Australia.
He participated in lectures, conferences and prayer and was apparently quiet, but friendly.
Former students at Craigieburn Secondary College remember Jake as quite and extremely shy.
Former school colleague Jake Coglan says Jake was somewhat “awkward,” extremely light framed and from time-to-time, the target of school-yard bullies
He wasn’t going to defend himself any time soon so people were going to take an opportunity to pick on him – that’s what some kids do these days,” he said.
‘Government must tackle cyber recruitment’
Sydney based doctor Jamal Rifi says the government needs to be more pro-active tackling the terror-group’s effective use of cyber-recruitment
“They’ve used every trick in the book to get into these people’s minds – what we need we need to win the propaganda war,” he said.
Last August the federal Government pledged more than 13-million dollars for community-based education programs but Dr Rifi says he’s yet to see the evidence on-the-ground
“They put a lot of effort into military action and police action but there is nothing in terms of preventative action and de-radicalisation,” he said.
The Prime Minister said recently the government was set to launch a new campaign specifically targeting cyber-recruitment
‘Australian recruits used as fodder’
Professor Greg Barton from Monash University’s Global Terrorism Research Centre said using young Westerners in suicide missions was a “very cynical move from a very cynical operation”.
Young people from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane who don’t speak any Arabic and don’t have any combat experience weren’t of much use to IS, apart from propaganda value, he said.
“So many of them become patsies who are told to strap on a vest or hop in the driver’s seat of suicide vehicle,” he told Sky News.
Reports ‘could be propaganda’
IS may have used Bilardi to demonstrate Westerners will “put their lives on the line for the movement”, says Michael Wesley, the director of the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University.
However, he cautioned the reports of Bilardi’s involvement could be IS propaganda and he might be alive.
“I wouldn’t put it beyond them to make things up,” Professor Wesley told ABC Radio.