Eight Australian children of IS fighters to be repatriated from Syria

24 June 2019, 06:25 | Updated: 24 June 2019, 09:19

Eight Australian children whose parents and grandparents joined Islamic State have been removed from Syria ahead of their repatriation to Australia.

The government has not identified the group, but media reports say it includes three children of Sydney-born Khaled Sharrouf: Zaynab, 18; Hoda, 16; and Humzeh, eight.

Zaynab reportedly married her father's friend - a fellow Australian jihadist in Syria called Mohamed Elomar - when she was 13 years old.

The teenager has two daughters, three-year-old Ayesha and two-year-old Fatima, and she is expecting her third child.

The group also includes three children of Islamic State group fighter Yasin Rizvic, from Melbourne. They are two boys and a girl aged between six and 12.

Khaled Sharrouf, Yasin Rizvic, their wives and two of Sharrouf's other children have died in Syria, but the remaining children have now been taken into the care of Australian officials.

It is not clear when they will reach Australia.

In April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had rejected calls to bring them back - but on Monday, he said they "can't be held responsible for the crimes of their parents".

The children will be provided with support allowing them to "fully integrate into a happy life in Australia".

Mr Morrison added: "They've got off to a horrible start in life as a result of the appalling decisions of their parents and they'll find their home in Australia and I'm sure they'll be embraced by Australians and as a result of that embrace, I'm sure they'll live positive and happy lives."

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This will be Australia's first organised repatriation from Syria and it comes after a long campaign by Sharrouf's Sydney-based mother-in-law Karen Nettleton.

Ms Nettleton's lawyer Robert Van Aalst told the ABC: "There will be medical examinations and various other support provided by the government which they have told us about to help the children acclimatise.

"There are also some wounds that may need to be attended to. Young Hoda was wounded in the leg. Zaynab, I believe, had shrapnel wounds.

"It is not just physical wounds that have to be looked into but there are some other psychological issues, no doubt, that will have to be looked into."

In 2014, Khaled Sharrouf posted a photo on social media of Humzeh holding the severed head of a Syrian soldier, an image described by then US secretary of state John Kerry as "stomach-turning" and "grotesque".

Clarke Jones, an Australian National University criminologist who specialises in radicalisation, said: "There are a lot of people who don't want them back at all. Because of that, they would also be under threat."

According to Save the Children, there are at least 50 Australian women and children in Syrian refugee camps.