London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Australia’s Muslim community is shocked by the number of Australians who have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a well-known Sydney Muslim community leader said after an image of an Australian national posing with the severed heads of Syrian soldiers was posted online.
Australian-born ISIS fighter Khaled Sharrouf—who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Zarqawi Al-Australi—posted images on Twitter of his friend Mohamed Elomar—also an Australian national—grinning and holding up two severed heads belonging to Syrian soldiers.The two Australian nationals left the country last year to join the Islamist group that is currently fighting in Iraq and Syria. The gruesome pictures were accompanied by grisly tweets boasting about “bucket full of heads” and “cutting infidels’ throats.”
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, founder of the Sydney-based Islamic Friendship Association Keysar Trad said: “Australia’s Muslim community is enraged by Sharrouf’s tweets.”
“The capabilities of Australia’s security apparatus is well-known in terms of protecting the country from the threat of terrorism,” he added, playing down fears that Sharrouf, Elomar and other Australian nationals that have joined ISIS could seek to return to Australia to carry out attacks. Sharrouf had previously utilized social media to threaten to “slaughter” Australians on his return home.
A spokesman for Australia’s Attorney General said that if authenticated, the photos “are evidence of serious crimes against Australian law and possible war crimes,” in comments to The Ausralian.
“Australian security authorizes are monitoring telephones and social networking sites around the clock. However Sharrouf—who was under observation by the security services—being able to leave Australia [and travel to Syria] raises concerns,” Trad said.
Sharrouf, a convicted terrorist, was sentenced to prison in a foiled plot to blow up targets in Sydney and Melbourne. He pleaded guilty in 2008 to possessing material connected with the perpetration of a terrorist act and was sentenced to three years and 11 months in prison but was released in 2009 on parole.
Trad expressed concern about the number of Australian nationals who have been able to join the fighting in Syria, adding that they have joined both ISIS and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front—which means that Australian nationals could find themselves fighting against each other in the convoluted Syrian conflict.
Trad estimated that less than 100 Australian nationals had traveled to Syria to fight, calling on Australia’s Muslims to avoid getting embroiled in the conflict. He has found himself in hot water for his anti-ISIS statements, referring a death threat via Twitter to the Australian Federal Police last week.