Sunrise, Canberra - Interview with Samantha Armytage

  • Transcript, E&OE
23 June 2015

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE Federal authorities are trying to confirm if two of Australia's most senior Islamic State fighters have been killed in Iraq. There are reports Mohamed Elomar and Khaled Sharrouf were killed in the past week by a drone strike in the Iraqi city of Mosul. The Sydney men fled to Syria two years ago to join Islamic State.

Khaled Sharrouf's wife is believed to be seeking to return from Syria with the couple's children, including the son photographed last year holding a severed head. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joins us now from Canberra.

Minister good morning to you.

JULIE BISHOP Good morning Sam.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE Have you had any confirmation of the deaths of Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar?

JULIE BISHOP Our security and intelligence agencies are still working to verify these reports that claim that Mr Elomar and Mr Sharrouf have been killed fighting for Da'esh in Iraq. We know that both men have been in Syria and Iraq. Both men have been listed as terrorists under a United Nations Security Council resolution on foreign terrorist fighters. Both men have had their passports cancelled. It is difficult for us to ascertain what is going on in Mosul in Iraq in particular where it's reported that these men died because this is already a no-go zone, proclaimed by the Australian Government. So any Australian who is in Mosul or Al-Raqqa province in Syria without legitimate purpose is committing a crime against Australian laws.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE Okay so it is a war zone technically. How do officials then go about confirming these bodies are these men?

JULIE BISHOP We have a lot of work to do to seek to verify these reports. We have an Embassy in Baghdad but as you can appreciate, the security situation is such that it is not easy for our officials to move around in Iraq. We don't have an Embassy in Damascus in Syria and so we have to rely on other authorities and other sources. That's why it may take some time to verify these reports. We do know that both men have been in Syria and Iraq for some time. They have been boasting of their terrorist activities on social media for some time.

You mentioned that the child of Mr Sharrouf was pictured holding up the head allegedly of a severed head of a Syrian soldier, and so they have boasted of treating women as sex slaves, they have boasted of their brutality and violence against people in Iraq and Syria and so they are already wanted in Australia. There are warrants for their arrest out from the police here in Australia.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE There are few people in Australia who would be sad today if these bodies are these terrorists. But where are we at as a country, as the government, on bringing the wife of Sharrouf home and his children?

JULIE BISHOP First, we must verify these reports that Mr Elomar and Mr Sharrouf have been killed fighting with Da'esh. Once those reports have been verified one way or another, then we can deal with other circumstances, including the families.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE Derryn Hinch was on earlier saying it would be outrageous if Australia, if the Government, paid for these bodies to be brought home, like with the Bali Nine duo, could you foresee that happening?

JULIE BISHOP These are very early days but I point out again, this is a war zone. It is an extremely dangerous place for anyone to be and we certainly won't be putting Australian officials' lives in danger but I point out again, these men are fighting with a terrorist organisation that has already essentially declared war on Australia. They are carrying out acts that are adding to the misery and the suffering of the people of Syria and Iraq. They are boasting of being foreign terrorist fighters and they are listed as terrorists under the United Nations Security Council resolution relating to foreign terrorist fighters. There are warrants out for their arrest.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, thanks for your time this morning.

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