Fury over picture of child holding severed head

AN AUSTRALIAN newspaper yesterday published a photograph of a child it said was the son of an Australian convicted terrorist holding aloft the severed head of a Syrian solider.

Prime minister Tony Abbott said the photograph was further evidence of just how barbaric the Islamic State group is. Picture: Getty

Prime minister Tony Abbott said the photograph was further evidence of “just how barbaric” the Islamic State group is. The Australian newspaper reported that the photograph of terrorist Khaled Sharrouf’s son, who was raised in Sydney, was posted on Twitter by his proud father.

“That’s my boy!” Sharrouf apparently posted beneath the image that was taken in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the capital of what has been declared a caliphate by the Islamic State, the newspaper reported. The child, who is not named, appears to be younger than ten. Sharrouf used his brother’s passport to leave Australia last year with his wife and three sons to fight in Syria and Iraq. The Australian government had banned him from leaving the country because of the terrorism threat he posed.

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He was among nine Muslim men accused in 2007 of stockpiling bomb-making chemicals and plotting terrorist attacks in Australia’s largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne. He pleaded guilty to terrorism offences and was sentenced in 2009 to four years in prison.

Australian police announced last month that they had arrest warrants for Sharrouf and his companion, Mohamed Elomar, another former Sydney resident, for “terrorism-related activity”. They will be arrested if they return to Australia. The warrants followed photographs being posted on Sharrouf’s Twitter account showing Elomar smiling and holding the severed heads of two Syrian soldiers.

In June, The Australian newspaper published a photograph of Sharrouf posing among the bodies of massacred Iraqis.

Meanwhile, Mr Abbott, who was in the Netherlands yesterday, said he expects Australian military transport planes to join the multinational humanitarian efforts this week on Iraq’s Sinjar mountain.

British officials estimated on Saturday that 50,000 to 150,000 people could be trapped on the mountain, where they fled to escape the Islamic extremists, only to become stranded there with few supplies.

“Australia will gladly join the humanitarian airlifts to the people stranded on Mount Sinjar,” Mr Abbott said. “This is a potential humanitarian catastrophe.”

He said Islam State’s quest for a terrorist nation posed “extraordinary problems” for the Middle East and the wider world. “We see more and more evidence of just how barbaric this particular entity is,” Mr Abbott said.

The photograph was “pretty graphic evidence of the real threat that IS represents”, said the US defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, in Sydney ahead of annual Australia-US ministerial consultations.

Lebanese Muslim Association president Samier Dandan says he is very disturbed by the image, and has distanced the Australian Muslim community from it. “This is an act of a lunatic. Even if you are saying to me he made his son lift or carry and take a picture with a decapitated head this is something reflective of something we can all agree – this is an act of a lunatic.”