JULIE BISHOP: We are aware of the reports that Mr Elomar and Mr Sharrouf have been killed fighting with Da’esh in Iraq. However, we are not able to verify those reports. Our security, law enforcement and intelligence agencies are working to verify the reports about the two men, but of course information is very difficult to come by in a conflict zone.
You will be aware that in both Al Raqqa province in Syria and in Mosul in Iraq we have declared these areas “off limits” for Australians who have no legitimate purpose for being there. So it’s difficult for us to gain the kind of information that would be needed to verify these reports at this stage.
JOURNALIST: If these reports are true is it kind of something that the Government may have been preparing for. Something that was inevitable?
JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government has been warning any Australia citizen who seeks to fight with Da’esh or Islamic State or ISIL, as it is known in Syria or Iraq, we have been warning any Australian citizen that if they go to the conflict zones they are putting their lives in mortal danger and more importantly they are adding to the suffering and the misery of the people of Syria and Iraq who have been brutalised by this barbaric terrorist organisation known as Da’esh.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned that information on the ground is obviously sketchy because of the nature of the surrounds there, what sort of timeframe would you hope to be able to verify these reports?
JULIE BISHOP: Well our security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies will be working to verify these reports, but I stress it’s very difficult to gain the information necessary given that it is a war zone. There is a conflict going on, and Australians should not be there.
And, again we stress that any Australian thinking of going to Syria or Iraq or the Middle East to support Da’esh, to support this brutal terrorist organisation, should not go. It’s an offence against Australian law and it’s adding to the misery and suffering of the people of Syria and Iraq and they are putting their own lives in danger.
JOURNALIST: Just one final question, we have seen reports also in recent weeks that one these men, his wife and children, want to come back to Australia. Would the fact that this man has now died reportedly influence the Government’s decision on whether or not they would be allowed back into the country?
JULIE BISHOP: Both Mr Elomar and Mr Sharrouf rose to international infamy as a result of pictures that they posted of themselves holding up the heads of pro-Syrian fighters. They had been notorious for their violence and their barbarity and we don’t have any information at present to verify whether or not these reports are correct.
But once we verify these reports we can look at other considerations, but I stress, we have not been able to verify these reports. Intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies are working to do that.
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