Outrage over image of Australian boy with Syrian soldier’s severed head

Australian man who fled to Syria with children taunts authorities with photographs of conflict

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 August, 2014, 11:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 11 August, 2014, 11:10pm


A shocking image of what is believed to be the seven-year-old son of an Australian man holding a decapitated head in Syria shows how barbaric the Islamic State "terrorist army" is, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said yesterday.

The picture, taken in the northern Syrian city of Raqa, was posted on the Twitter account of Khaled Sharrouf, an Australian man who fled to Syria last year and was now an Islamic State fighter, The Australian newspaper said.

It shows a boy struggling to hold up the severed head of a slain Syrian soldier by his hair.

It was captioned with the words "That's my boy", an apparent reference to one of Sharrouf's Sydney-raised sons.

Another photo published by the newspaper shows Sharrouf dressed in camouflage fatigues posing with three boys. Security agencies believe they are his children. All are holding guns and stand in front of the flag of the Islamic State militants that have seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.

Abbott, speaking to ABC radio from the Netherlands, said the pictures showed the barbaric nature of the Sunni extremists formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

"What we've got to appreciate is that Islamic State - as they're now calling themselves - is not just a terrorist group, it's a terrorist army and they're seeking not just a terrorist enclave but effectively a terrorist state, a terrorist nation," he said.

"And this does pose extraordinary problems ... not just for the people of the Middle East but for the wider world.

"We see more and more evidence of just how barbaric this particular entity is."

US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel, in Australia for talks, was equally outraged, saying the militants were "a threat to the civilised world".

Australia has an arrest warrant out for Sharrouf, who has also been pictured posing with severed heads. Officials have said up to 150 Australians are fighting alongside militants overseas. Sharrouf, who served almost four years in prison after pleading guilty over a 2005 conspiracy to attack Sydney, fled the country using his brother's passport.

Australian Defence Minister David Johnston said he was "revolted" by the image, which he called "a shocking misrepresentation of Islam". "I'm very upset about this sort of thing completely colouring our view of Muslims," he said.

Lebanese Muslim Association president Samier Dandan distanced the Australian Muslim community from it. "I stand very far from that concept - this is an act of a lunatic," he told the ABC.

Abbott, meanwhile, said Australia was ready to participate in American airdrops to civilians threatened in Iraq, and could also deploy two aircraft for any airlift mission.

"Australia will gladly join the humanitarian airlift to the people stranded on Mount Sinjar," he said. "This is a potential humanitarian catastrophe. US President [Barack] Obama has said it's a potential genocide.

"So we do have some Hercules C1-30 aircraft in the Middle East and we have a C-17 that's bringing humanitarian supplies from Australia in the next day or so, and we'd expect to join that humanitarian airlift should it be needed sometime later in the week."