Australia trying to verify death of national in Iraq

Published March 12th, 2015 - 04:18 GMT

Australia is attempting to verify the death of a teenage national in Iraq, saying it had been aware of his presence in the area "for a number of months."

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop confirmed to local media Thursday that the government was looking into if Jake Bilardi was part of a Daesh "suicide bombing attack."

"The news appears very grim, but we are seeking to independently verify it," she added.

A photograph being circulated on social media claims to show a young man — thought to be the 18-year-old Melbourne schoolboy — sitting in the driver's seat of a white four-wheel-drive van.

Alongside the image is the name Abu Abdullah al-Australi — confirmed as that used by Bilardi — and the blessing "may Allah accept him."

Daesh claimed Bilardi had died in the city of Ramadi — the provincial capital of Anbar province — in one of a series of car bombs alongside other foreign militants from Uzbekistan, Russia, Morocco, Syria, Egypt, and Belgium.

Local news reports confirmed that 10 people had died and 30 were wounded Wednesday morning after the organisation carried out 13 simultaneous suicide bombings against government-held districts in the city.

The van Bilardi — who is understood to have converted to Islam at the age of 16 — was pictured in was similar to vehicles used in previous Daesh suicide attacks.

Bishop said Thursday that authorities had had reason to have the 18-year-old under surveillance for "quite some time," however since travelling around "Iraq and Syria with ISIL and Daesh" it had been "very hard for us to keep track of him."

"The terrorist organization preys on vulnerable people, they prey on vulnerable young people in particular — they promise them some kind of redemption or martyrdom but the fact is it is a senseless and cruel and violent end for many of them," she added.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that he had been told of the reports, which he described as a "horrific situation."

"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."

The Sydney morning Herald reported Thursday that Bilardi had converted to Islam after his mother's death, started visiting mosques in the north of Melbourne, and begun using the names Abdur Raheem or Abu Abdullah.

"He used to come here when we had a big lecture," Abu Zaid, a committee member of the Hume Islamic Youth Centre in Coolaroo, told Fairfax media. "He was a very quiet guy, he stuck to himself. We weren't close to him. I didn't see any of the people [getting] close to him."

In 2014, he dropped out of school and bought a one-way ticket to a country neighboring Syria, before crossing the border.

On joining Daesh, the group lauded his recruitment as "a major coup." British media — fooled by a blogger who fabricated his identity — began dubbing him "Britain's white jihadi." 

Fairfax reported that Bilardi had contacted his family two months after his disappearance, and said he was training for a "martyrdom mission."

In December, he told the BBC that he wanted to die in a suicide attack.

"I've been waiting for almost one month now and I'm next to go so inshallah [God willing] it'll be soon," he said. "I came here chasing death, I might as well kill as many kuffar [infidels] as I can."

Bishop said Thursday that she had cancelled the passports of 100 Australians who security agencies fear want to join Daesh.

"So that's 100 people who haven't gone overseas who we believe were seeking to go to Iraq and Syria and join in this conflict," she said, adding that she had also refused to issue a number of passports.

She also said that 90 Australians are believed to be fighting alongside Daesh, and 20 are understood to have died.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported Thursday that Bilardi had left improvised explosive devices at his house before leaving Australia. 

It added that Bishop had declined to comment on the report.

© Copyright Andolu Ajansi

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