At least 12 women from Melbourne, Australia, have attempted to join the Islamic State group, and in some cases, tried to become jihadi brides, Australian police said Friday. The news comes amid growing concerns over Australians traveling to the Middle East to fight alongside the militant group.
The women are aged between 18 and 29 years, and were recruited online, BBC reported, citing police. They reportedly hailed from the northern and southeastern suburbs of Melbourne.
According to a special investigation by Victoria Police, five of the 12 women have successfully joined the militants in Syria. Authorities reportedly said that four women made it to Turkey before they were intercepted by police. Another woman was reportedly stopped by customs officers in Australia while the whereabouts of two other remain unclear.
"They think they will be put on a pedestal and treated very well overseas but the reality is that is not the case," Tracy Linford, assistant commissioner of Victoria Police told reporters on Friday, according to ABC News. "Some of these women are forced into arranged marriages, sexual servitude and are living in squalid conditions often on rations."
Last month, Australian authorities established Task Force Pax to monitor potential extremists in Victoria. Linford reportedly said that two forensic psychologists had been appointed in the task force to help authorities understand why the young women were trying to join the Sunni militant group.
"The use of psychologists provides us with a far more comprehensive risk assessment and also assists in identifying early intervention opportunities," she said, according to BBC. "This gives us the chance to focus on identifying those youths most at risk of radicalization and to engage with them or their families directly."
One of the women was identified as 21-year-old Zehra Duman, who allegedly traveled out of Melbourne in December to join Mahmoud Abullatif, an Australian man, believed to be an Islamic extremist, BBC reported, citing The Age, a local newspaper. The report added that Duman traveled to Syria without her parent's knowledge.
The government is reportedly working to introduce a legislation that will allow authorities to strip the Australian citizenship of dual citizens joining ISIS in Iraq or Syria. Sympathizers of militant groups will also be targeted under the new law, BBC reported.
According to the Australian government, at least 100 Australians are fighting alongside ISIS in the Middle East, while another 150 people are believed to be supporting the militant group from within the country.