Jake Bilardi, an 18-year-old Muslim convert from Australia, who went to the Middle East to fight alongside the Islamic State group, reportedly died in a suicide attack in Iraq. The teenager had also planned to conduct “a string of bombings across Melbourne,” the Guardian reported, citing a blog, allegedly written by him under a pseudonym.
The teenager had joined ISIS in Iraq and a picture of him appeared online on Wednesday, where he was seen behind the driving wheel of a white van. The picture was captioned: “May God accept him,” according to the BBC. The Australian government, however, has not yet confirmed reports that Bilardi was the person shown in the photograph.
"It shows the lure of this death cult to impressionable youngsters," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said, according to the BBC, adding: "It's very, very important that we do everything we can to try to safeguard our young people against the lure of this shocking alien and extreme ideology."
Bilardi had told a BBC reporter in December: "I came here chasing death, I might as well kill as many kuffar (infidels) as I can."
According to the Guardian, Bilardi's blog, under the pseudonym Abu Abdullah al-Australi, gave information about his plans of launching “a string of bombings across Melbourne, targeting foreign consulates and political/military targets as well as grenade and knife attacks on shopping centres and cafes.”
Bilardi, who was dubbed "Britain’s white jihadi," wrote that the attacks would include “detonating a belt of explosives amongst the kuffar." While he was initially working on preparing explosives for the attacks, he abandoned his plans fearing suspicion from authorities and reportedly fled to Syria.
Bilardi was under surveillance and his passport had been cancelled, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported, adding that he may have left a stack of bombs at his home before fleeing to the Middle East. At least 10 people were killed and 30 wounded in attacks coordinated on Wednesday in the government-held areas of the Iraqi city of Ramadi.
"I can confirm that the Australian government is currently seeking to independently verify reports that 18-year-old Melbourne teenager Jake Bilardi has been killed in a suicide bombing attack in the Middle East," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said, according to AFP, adding: "If these reports are confirmed, this is another tragic example of a young Australian being lured to a senseless and violent death by a brutal terrorist organization that is intent on imposing suffering and misery, not only in Iraq and Syria, but beyond."
Last week, Bishop had said that there were 90 Australians in Iraq and Syria, who supported ISIS, adding that at least 20 other have been killed so far. Over 30 foreign fighters have returned to Australia and at least 140 people in Australia are actively supporting extremist groups, the Associated Press reported, citing the government.