Aussie teens head for Iraq conflict

NATALIE O'BRIEN
Last updated 09:32 29/06/2014
Iraq teen

GONE: Abdullah Elmir, 17, left Australia without telling his parents.

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Two Australian teenagers have travelled to the Middle East without their parents' knowledge and are believed to be heading to Iraq to join the fighting.

One of the boys, Abdullah Elmir, who turned 17 earlier this month, told his mother he was "going fishing" before he disappeared from his Sydney home just over a week ago.

His family said they only discovered he had left the country after Elmir sent a text message to another family member asking them to tell his mother he had "gone" and did not know his current location.

They have since learnt he left with a 16-year-old boy, who they have never met nor heard of, by the name of Feiz.

Elmir's family said they are shocked and devastated and want their son brought back home. They believe he has been "brainwashed" and they want to know who paid for his air ticket and encouraged him to go.

Australian security officials and police have since been questioning friends of the family about Elmir, and who might have given him the money to buy the air ticket and whether he was going to the Middle East to join jihadists.

Elmir's family and friends said he was a normal teenager who had just finished school and liked X-Box, playing with the family cat and hanging out with his brothers and sisters. He was very bright  and had just finished school.

He was considering what he wanted to do for a career and they were trying to push him towards going to university.

It was understood the boys travelled from Sydney to Perth, Malaysia, Thailand and finally, Turkey. Elmir contacted his family from Turkey telling them he was going to "cross the border" and they understood he meant he was heading to Iraq.

His mother tried to convince him not to go and was preparing to travel to Turkey to try and bring him back.

She contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade immediately to advise them of her plan. But by that time it was too late and Elmir was understood to have left Turkey.

"We are devastated that we may never be able to see him again. We wish for his safety and we want the government to help bring him home," a family member said.

It is believed that about 10 Australians have died in Syria and Iraq, the latest a  22-year-old Sydney man, Zakaria Raad, who appeared in a recruitment video for the terror group The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) shortly before he was killed in an ambush in Syria while preparing to go to Iraq.

The family's lawyer, Zali Burrows, said they are concerned that government agencies had known about the boys' plans but had not stopped the youths from leaving Australia.

"What is concerning is that if the Federal Police and ASIO had the intelligence, then why did they fail to stop him from departing or fail to stop the boy while he was in Turkey?" Burrows said.

"The family believes that the government knows where their boy is and they just want them to bring him home," she said.

The Attorney-General's department said due to privacy reasons they could not comment on individual cases but in a statement, a spokesman said, Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Syria and the department's capacity to deliver consular assistance is extremely limited.  

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The statement said parents with concerns about the whereabouts of children overseas should direct their inquiries to the police or the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

This is the third case where teenagers have left Sydney without the knowledge of their families and headed to Iraq and Syria.

It is understood that another 17-year-old had recently told his mother he was going to get a job, and then turned up in Syria.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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