SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — A shocking photo emerged from Syria on Monday and went viral online, showing a young Australian boy holding the severed head of a Syrian soldier. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot condemned the Islamic State (IS) and the photos, describing them as "barbaric."
The father of the young boy, Khaled Sharrouf, earlier joined the Islamic State (IS/ISIS) and is reportedly an ex-terror convict who was jailed for four years after being convicted of plotting attacks in Australia. The graphic image, along with others, was posted on Sharrouf's own Twitter account.
The shocking photo shows a young boy believed to be about seven years old, dressed in a blue shirt while wearing a baseball cap, as he struggles to keep hold of the severed head, using both his hands to lift the head by its hair to pose for the photograph. The caption of the photo read: "That's my boy!"
In an interview in the Netherlands, to discuss the MH17 disaster and the implementation of tougher sanctions against Russia, Abbot denounced the photos and the Islamic State. "[The Islamic State] is not just a terrorist group, it's a terrorist army and they're seeking not just a terrorist enclave but effectively a terrorist state, a terrorist nation," he told ABC Radio.
Abbot continued by saying that the Islamic State poses an "extraordinary problem" to not just the Middle East, but to the world in general. Alluding to the fact that the image was brought to the prime minister's attention, he stated how photographs have been published in Australia of the "hideous atrocities that this group is capable of."
A second image was also posted online, showing Sharrouf and his three young boys as they pose with guns in camouflage clothing.
"He's gone, forget about it. He's forgotten about youse. I'm sure you've seen much worse than that," Sharrouf's brother, Mostafa Sharrouf, was quoted as saying by the Australian. The child's grandfather, however, said he was "gutted" by the photo which was making headlines around the world.
Sharrouf reportedly left Australia last year, using his brother's passport with a return flight to Malaysia to throw off any suspicion from authorities. The father is now in Syria with his children to fight alongside other jihadists.
The Islamic State, which was previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS), is an al-Qaeda splinter group which declared itself an Islamic caliphate after seizing much of northeastern Syria and making huge gains in parts of Iraq. Their rule has been marked with brutal violence – such as beheadings and crucifixions – of anyone opposing the "caliphate," including a recent massacre in the Iraqi city of Tikrit in which hundreds were slaughtered.