The children of the late Australian terrorist Khaled Sharrouf, who fled to Syria to join ISIS in 2013, have reportedly been rescued from a Syrian refugee camp after their grandma made a heartfelt plea – with backing from politicians – to bring them home.
According to the Australian, a secretive operation was carried out at the weekend to retrieve a total of eight children from the camp, including the orphaned kids of Sharrouf – who made headlines when a photograph of himself standing next to his young son while the youngster was holding a severed human head spread across the world.
The group were reportedly rescued from the conflict zone and into a coalition-controlled area of Iraq, with The Australian unable to disclose the children’s final destination for security reasons.
Those set for the long journey home include Sharrouf’s children, eight-year-old Humzeh, Hoda, 16, and 17-year-old Zaynab, who is pregnant with her third child. The terrorist’s grandchildren, Ayesha, three, and two-year-old Fatima are also believed to be in the convoy along with the three orphaned kids of Australian Islamic fighter Yasin Rizvic.
Speaking about the rescue, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the eight children had been removed from the conflict zone in a what was a difficult decision for the government.
“Repatriating these children was not a decision the Australian government made lightly,” he said, according to The Australian. “Australia’s national security and the safety of our people and personnel have always been our most important considerations in this matter.”
The rescue operation comes months after Aussie grandmother Karen Nettleton revealed her desperate five-year fight to rescue her three orphaned grandchildren from Syria after they were taken by their mum to join their father Sharrouf.
They had been staying with other IS brides and children in the al-Hawl refugee camp in north-eastern Syria. The two older boys, along with their parents, are thought to have died.
Determined to be reunited with them, Karen had launched three separate bids to bring them home and back in April appeared on ABC’s Four Corners to detail her effort, having flown to Syria to search refugee camps in the hope of finding them.
“I just hope today is the day I get them. If not I will try again tomorrow and the next day because I’m not going home without them,” she said on the show, adding: “I’d never thought I’d be in this situation ever. I mean trying to get children out of Syria. I’m just a grandma from the suburbs.”
Karen had previously made two attempts to fly out and rescue them, but each time she failed. Nonetheless, she managed to keep up sporadic contact with them over the years – promising to do all she could to help them.
Breaking down in tears on the program, she insisted that they don’t pose any threat to Australians and just want a chance of living a ‘normal’ life now both of their parents have died.
“They are not a threat or a danger to anyone,” she said on camera. “They’re not. I mean Zaynab is a mum – 17 years old, two children and one on the way. Humzeh is a little boy eight. His main worry is his friends and Hoda is the quiet one. She’s the real soft one. Just because their last name is Sharrouf, doesn’t mean they are monsters.”