National News

Orphaned IS children on way to Australia

The children of two Islamic State fighters including the infamous Khaled Sharrouf are returning to Australia from conflict-ridden Syria where they have spent months orphaned in refugee camps.

Heavily-pregnant 17-year-old Zaynab is one of eight children from the two families who are homeward bound after a rescue mission by the Australian government.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday said the children should not be punished for the crimes of their parents.

"That you would take a child and put them in a conflict zone like this is despicable and I find it disgusting," he told reporters in Perth.

Sharrouf's returning children include son Humzeh, eight, daughter Hoda, 16, and Zaynab and her two daughters.

The others are three children aged six to 12, who are the offspring of ISIS fighter Yasin Rizvic and his wife, Fauzia Khamal Bacha.

Mr Morrison said the group would be supported by the Australian government.

"They've got off to a horrible start in life as a result of the appalling decisions of their parents," he said.

"They'll find their home in Australia and I'm sure they will be embraced by Australians and as a result of that embrace, I'm sure they'll live positive and happy lives."

Save the Children spokesman Mat Tinkler said the children had been taken to a secure location outside Syria and will undergo security clearances before reaching Australia.

He urged the community to give the children the benefit of the doubt and to "wrap them with love and support".

"These children have been through hell," Mr Tinkler said.

"There's no doubt that the journey to recovery for them will be a long one. But children are also remarkably resilient, particularly when they get put back into a safe, secure and nurturing environment."

About 50 Australian women and children remain in the Syrian camps, Mr Tinkler added, and Mr Morrison said their cases would be considered for Australian support.

News Corp Australia reports Zaynab will have her baby in Iraq before returning to live with grandmother Karen Nettleton in Melbourne.

Mrs Nettleton was reunited with her grandchildren in April in northern Syria's al-Hawl camp.

Since returning to Australia, she has been negotiating with officials to bring them home.

Zaynab told ABC Four Corners in April she and her siblings had no choice about being taken into the war zone.

"We weren't the ones that chose to come here in the first place," she told the program.

"We were brought here by our parents and now that our parents are gone, we want to live. And for me and my children, I want to live a normal life."

Her sister Hoda, who was 11 when she was taken out of Australia, told the ABC: "I didn't know I was in Syria until after we crossed the borders and I heard people speaking Arabic."

Sharrouf was killed in an air strike in September 2017. His two older sons - Abdullah, 12, and Zarqawi, 11 - are also believed to have died in the strike.

The children's mother, Mrs Nettleton's daughter Tara, died of medical complications in 2015.

The Sharrouf children shot to notoriety when their father released a photograph of Abdullah holding the severed head of a Syrian man.

© AAP 2019