Young Australian women trying to join IS, say police

Armed and masked Islamic State militants marching with IS flag, Raqqa Image copyright AP
Image caption Islamic State fighters have seized large areas of Iraq and Syria

As many as 12 young women have tried to leave Melbourne to join the Islamic State (IS) militant group, according to Australian police.

The women, aged between 18 and 29, have been recruited on social media.

Five of them are now living with IS militants in the conflict zones, according to a special investigation by Victoria Police.

Concern has been rising since mid-2014 about Australians going to the Middle East to fight for IS.

The government will soon introduce legislation allowing it to strip dual citizens fighting in Iraq or Syria of their Australian citizenship.

People working in Australia to support militant groups will also be targeted by the changes.

Task Force Pax was established in April to monitor Victorians believed to be involved with insurgents.

Early intervention

Officials from the task force told local media on Friday that another four Melbourne women made it as far as Turkey before being turned back by authorities.

One other was stopped by customs officers in Australia while two remain unaccounted for.

The young women are all from Melbourne's northern and south-eastern suburbs.

Assistant Commissioner Tracy Linford said two forensic psychologists had been embedded in the task force to help investigators understand why the young women were trying to join IS.

"The use of psychologists provides us with a far more comprehensive risk assessment and also assists in identifying early intervention opportunities," she said.

"This gives us the chance to focus on identifying those youths most at risk of radicalisation and to engage with them or their families directly."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption In the past year, Australian police have conducted numerous anti-terror raids

Local media reported that one of the women was 21-year-old Zehra Duman, who allegedly travelled overseas in December to join Mahmoud Abullatif, a Melbourne man believed to be a Islamic extremist.

She travelled to Syria without her parent's knowledge, The Age newspaper reported.

It is believed Abullatif was killed while fighting with IS in January but Ms Duman has yet to return home.

Police said the young women were being sold a romantic view of life with IS, and had lied to their families about their travel plans.

Sexual servitude

Authorities were warning parents and friends of young women about the lure of IS, saying the women could end up in arranged marriages, or forced into sexual servitude in the Middle East.

"Our intelligence tells us these women are going over there to meet their partners, to marry somebody in an arranged marriage or be pushed into sexual servitude," Assistant Commissioner Linford told reporters.

The Herald Sun newspaper said mother Dullel Kassab was another of the women identified by police.

The Australian government believes at least 100 Australians are fighting with militant groups in the Middle East.

Another 150 people in Australia are known to be supporting such groups, while Australia's intelligence agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), is investigating about 400 high-priority terrorist cases.

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