The Australian government has accused the Islamic State group of exploiting foreign fighters by using them as “cannon fodder” in Syria and Iraq. The country also claimed that the number of Australians killed while fighting for ISIS in the Middle East has increased in recent weeks.

According to Australia's Attorney General George Brandis, ISIS has tricked recruits from the West and other parts of the world into believing that they play a significant role in a religious movement. The government also estimated that at least 70 Australian nationals have joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria so far.

“They are simply using them as frontline cannon fodder, suicide bombers and propaganda tools,” Brandis told The Australian newspaper on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press (AP).

According to Brandis, the number of Australians killed while fighting alongside ISIS in Syria and Iraq has increased to 20. Earlier, the government had estimated that 15 of its citizens have been killed while fighting for ISIS, AP reported.

“Australian youths, and many young men and women from Western countries, are being lured by the falsehood of a noble battle against an oppressive enemy,” Brandis told The Australian. “In reality, they are merely taking part in acts of thoughtless violence -- in many cases against innocent civilians -- on behalf of ISIL, which is intent on recklessly enslaving, raping and murdering those with a contrary view to their own.”

Last week, Australia declared Syria’s Raqqa province as a no-go zone for its citizens, making it a criminal offense for Australians to travel to the region without a valid purpose.

“Declaring Al-Raqqa province under the Criminal Code sends a strong message to those Australians who seek to participate in the Syrian conflict,” Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had said in a statement.