Authorities in Canberra are trying to confirm reports that an 18-year-old Australian has died while carrying out a suicide attack for the Islamic State group.
The radical Sunni group has claimed that Jake Bilardi had been killed in a series of blasts in the Iraqi city of Ramadi.
Ramadi and Baghdad, Iraq
In propaganda published online, the Islamic State group claimed it had used foreign fighters from Australia, Belgium, Syria and Uzbekistan in a coordinated onslaught of suicide attacks in Ramadi.
One photograph showed the image of a young man who closely resembles Bilardi sitting behind the wheel of a white van.
The teenager left his home in the southern city of Melbourne in August and flew to the Middle East.
Officials said he had come to the attention of the security agencies, and had his Australian passport canceled in October. By then, however, he was in the conflict zone, having apparently been recruited by the Islamic State terrorist group.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said his reported death in a suicide attack in Iraq’s restive Anbar province shows how much influence Islamic State propaganda can have on the young and vulnerable in Western countries.
“There are unconfirmed reports to this effect. This is a horrific situation, an absolutely horrific situation and it shows the lure, the lure of this death cult to impressionable youngsters and its 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,” Abbott said.
Blog removed from Internet
Reports in Australia suggest the Melbourne teenager left explosive devices at his family home. A blog apparently written by Bilardi that was removed from the Internet contained threats to carry out terror attacks in Australia.
In Canberra, officials have refused to comment on the reports.
Last year, the government passed tough laws making it easier for security agencies to cancel the passports of people suspected of engaging in extremism. The legislation also makes it a crime for Australians to visit certain terrorism hot spots overseas.
Last week, two teenage brothers were intercepted at Sydney airport suspected of attempting to join the Islamic State group. They were later released to their parents.
Australia has estimated that about 90 of its citizens are fighting with militant groups in the Middle East.