Much as Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott feels for the five children now fatherless following the death of renowned Aussie ISIS fighter Khaled Sharrouf in Syria, he stressed keeping the country safe is the foremost priority.
Mr Abbott is being pressured to allow the return of Sharrouf’s wife and children. The Australian man became famous in 2014 when he released photos showing his 7-year-old son holding by the hair a severed head of a Syrian soldier.
Karen Nettleton, mother of Sharrouf’s wife Tara, pleaded to the government to allow her daughter and her grandchildren to come home. She said what her daughter and her family did when they slipped out of Australia in late 2013 was a “mistake of a lifetime.”
“Today she is a parent alone in a foreign and vicious land looking after a widowed 14-year-old and four other young children,” the older Nettleton said. “Mr Abbott, I beg you, please help bring my child and grandchildren home.”
The Aussie leader said he feels and takes pity on the children “at one level.” But he also quickly stressed the “scale of evil” the dead father has practiced in Syria. Suffice to say, it can be assumed his children may already have absorbed that ISIS training from the father.
“That’s the thing,” Mr Abbott said. “We will act to protect our country, the safety of our community is the first concern of government.” Without necessarily explicitly saying it, the children, along with Sharrouf’s wife, may continue his unfinished terrorist work right in Australia.
“I accept that some will be critical of my daughter, who followed her heart and has paid an enormous price,” the older Nettleton said.
If and when the government does ever get persuaded to repatriate Sharrouf’s family to Australia, Mr Abbott said the children will be dealt with in “exactly the same way” as the families of criminals are normally dealt with.
“We can’t convict the kids on the basis of the crimes of the parents.”
As of Wednesday, the Aussie government has yet to make any announcement it is helping the Nettleton’s repatriate the family. Instead, it is busy verifying the deaths of ISIS fighters Sharrouf and his Australian friend Mohamed Elomar. Both reportedly died in Mosul last week in a drone strike.
“In respect of Elomar, yes, we do have a high degree of confidence that he was effectively dealt with by that coalition airstrike,” Mr Abbott told Channel Seven. “In respect of the other individual (Khaled Sharrouf), we don’t have any such confidence. So, one looks to be dead, the other we can’t say.”
In a written statement given to the ABC by her lawyer, Nettleton said a messenger came to her home to deliver the news about Sharrouf and Elomar, the husband of her 14-year-old granddaughter. She confirmed Elomar’s death. Sharrouf, however, “was missing and presumed dead.”