Australian children rescued from Syria IS camp

Children, with identities hidden, in a camp near IdlibImage copyright
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Thousands of men, women and children and been displaced by the fall of IS

Eight children, including six taken by their Australian parents to join the Islamic State (IS) group, have been evacuated from a Syrian refugee camp.

The group includes three orphaned children of notorious Australian militant Khaled Sharrouf.

The government were able to evacuate the children in secret in conjunction with aid groups, Australian media say.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed they had been freed from a “bleak and complicated” situation.

“The fact that parents put their children into harm’s way by taking them into a war zone was a despicable act,” Mr Morrison said. “However, children should not be punished for the crimes of their parents.”

He added that the decision had not been made “lightly”.

“Australia’s national security and the safety of our people and personnel have always been our most important considerations in this matter,” he said.

Earlier this year he insisted he would not endanger lives to extract Australians from camps.

Five children of Sharrouf were taken to Syria in 2014 by their mother, Tara Nettleton. She had followed her husband who had left months before on his brother’s passport.

Sharrouf became notorious for graphic photographs he shared online from the warzone – including of his young children with weapons and one holding a severed head.

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Save the Children said it found more than 2,500 foreign children in Syrian camps

Two of them reportedly died alongside their father in an airstrike near Raqqa in 2017. Nettleton died from health complications from appendicitis in 2015.

Her mother, Karen, has campaigned to repatriate her three surviving grandchildren, who have reportedly been held in camps since the fall of IS’s last stronghold.

She had an emotional reunion with them at the Syrian al-Hawl camp earlier this year as part of an ABC news documentary, in which the teenage girls, 16 and 17, spoke of their wishes to return.

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Media caption“There are different degrees of radicalisation among the women”

The eldest, Zaynab, is heavily pregnant and already has two children, aged 2 and 3, after being married aged 13 to a jihadist friend of her father’s after they travelled.

The other three children in the group are reported to be the orphans of Yasin Rizvic, a jihadist originally from Melbourne.

The debate over how international governments should handle repatriation of IS fighters and their children has come to the fore this year with the collapse of the group.

Researchers estimate more than 40,000 international citizens from 80 countries are thought to have joined IS in Iraq and Syria between April 2013 and June 2018.

Earlier this year, charity Save the Children said they found more than 2,500 foreign children in Syrian camps.

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