Excerpted from The Australian: TONY Abbott has described the reported suicide bomb death of a Melbourne teenager as an “absolutely horrific situation”, which shows the lure Islamic State has to young Australians.
Jake Bilardi, 18, was reportedly involved in one of seven IS suicide attacks in the Iraqi city of Ramadi on Wednesday.
A photo posted online, purportedly from a new IS propaganda video, appears to show a white van with an in inset image of a young man who looks like Bilardi sitting in a driver’s seat.
While the authenticity of the image has not been confirmed, there was a wave of car bomb attacks in Anbar province on Wednesday which killed at least 10 people and wounded 30. according to police.
“This is a horrific situation, an absolutely horrific situation,” the prime minister told reporters in Melbourne.
“It’s very, very important that we do everything we can to try to safeguard our young people against the lure of this shocking, alien and extreme ideology.”
Professor Greg Barton from Monash University’s Global Terrorism Research Centre said using young westerners in suicide missions was a “very cynical move from a very cynical operation”.
Young people from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane who don’t speak any Arabic and don’t have any combat experience weren’t of much use to Islamic State, apart from propaganda, he said.
“So many of them become patsies who are told to strap on a vest or hop in the driver’s seat of suicide vehicle,” he told Sky News.
Michael Wesley, the director of the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University, said the troubled teen from Craigieburn, in Melbourne, may have been used by Islamic State to prove Westerners are willing to kill themselves for the movement
Professor Wesley cautions the reports of Bilardi’s involvement could be IS propaganda and he may be alive.
However he said the boy might have been seen as a useful tool for the movement to prove that Westerners “put their lives on the line for the movement”.
Professor Wesley told ABC radio it was in keeping with IS behaviour to involve a young person, like Bilardi, in a suicide bombing.
“We’re seeing a range of ages being recruited by IS, but young people are very prominent among them,” he said.
However he cautioned: “I wouldn’t put it beyond them to make things up. I think they will do anything for propaganda advantage.”
Bilardi was dubbed “the white jihadi” after appearing in a Twitter photograph in December, sitting with Islamic State fighters and clutching an assault rifle. British media first claimed he was from the UK but it has since been revealed that he was a gifted student from Craigieburn who dropped out of high school to join fighting in Iraq and Syria.
Neighbours and friends said he was “shy and confused” and had become more so after losing his mother to cancer in 2012.
The teenager was reportedly living with two older brothers and a sister after his mother died.
“He was really smart but seemed to get even quieter after his mum died,” one classmate said.
Before his Twitter account was suspended, the teenager tweeted about impending attacks.
“What we have in store for you dogs will make 9/11 look like child’s play,” he wrote in one post
In a previous post, the teen reportedly warned: “Martin place was just the beginning for you dogs.” Keep reading