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Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

FILE - Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop talks to journalists during a news briefing in Kyiv, July 28, 2014.

Australian officials are increasingly concerned about young women supporting radical Islamic groups. Ministers warn that some citizens have travelled to Syria and Iraq to become so-called “jihadi brides.”

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network. While some are providing active backing at home, others have traveled to the Middle East.

Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop has told parliament that an increasing number of Australian women were heading to Iraq or Syria to join husbands fighting with Islamic State or to marry a militant.

She has warned potential Islamic State recruits, however, that the group’s attitudes towards women were “utterly appalling” and said that if they travel to the Middle East, it will be no “romantic adventure.” She warned that foreign women had ended up as sex slaves and in some cases suicide bombers.

Homegrown extremism has become a growing concern for Australia’s security agencies, and officials fear what might happen if radicalized women return home. About 90 young Australian men are thought to be fighting with Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Bishop told MPs that females accounted for nearly 20 per cent of all foreign jihadis in Syria and Iraq, and said the number of Australians joining their ranks was a worrying sign.

“There is this phenomena of jihadi bride, and this means that young women are either attracted to a male foreign terrorist fighter, they are going with their male partner to Syria and Iraq - or in some instances they are actually looking for a partner and are being told online that there are opportunities for them in Syria and Iraq. Others are just supporting a terrorist organization because they've been radicalized, either through a group or online,” said Bishop.

Meanwhile, it is reported that an Australian man fighting with Kurdish militants against Islamic State has been killed in northern Syria.

On Monday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced new counter-terrorism laws to tighten citizenship and immigration regulations along with a crackdown on groups inciting religious or racial hatred.

Last September, Canberra raised its domestic terror threat level from medium to high.