Australia’s most senior Islamic State member, former bouncer and actor Mohammad Ali Baryalei, is believed to be dead.
According to the ABC, Mr Baryalei was allegedly killed during fighting in the Middle East around four to five days ago.
The former King Cross bouncer and one-time Underbelly television star was accused of planning to behead a random member of the Australian public in September.
The 33-year-old was also believed to be responsible for recruiting dozens of Australians to fight with extremist groups in Iraq and Syria.
The ABC reports that rumours of Mr Baryalei’s death began circulating on social media over the last 12 hours.
A spokesperson for Attorney-General Senator George Brandis said it was not government policy to confirm deaths of ISIL fighters.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the government was trying to confirm the reports.
“Australian foreign fighters … are adding to the suffering of the people in Iraq and Syria and they are putting themselves in mortal danger,” she told parliament on Wednesday.
“Indeed, we are currently seeking to confirm whether the 16th Australian foreign fighter has indeed been killed in this conflict.”
The news came as Labor joined the coalition to pass foreign fighter laws.
The government legislation prohibits travel to terrorist hot spots without a valid excuse and makes it illegal to promote or encourage terrorism.
Visiting a no-go zone designated by the foreign minister is punishable by 10 years in prison.
The bill passed the Senate on Wednesday with bipartisan support, after the government agreed to multiple amendments recommended by a bipartisan joint parliamentary committee. The bill now heads to the lower house.
The amendments implement a number of safeguards, including removing the ability to declare an entire country a terrorist zone.
They also sunset several of the measures, including powers to hold suspected terrorists without charge for 14 days and search and seizure powers, to expire in four years instead of 10.
The government also scrapped the power to retain biometric data such as fingerprints and iris scans into the future.
Labor has taken credit for the “substantive” changes to the bill.
However, a recommendation for the government to define the words “promote” and “encourage” in relation to terrorism did not appear in the changes.
News of Baryalei’s death was tweeted by a British-based researcher Shiraz Maher, from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at Kings College in London.
In Sydney, Abdul Salaam Mahmoud, posted on Facebook that his friend Baryalei had been “martyred”.
“I’ve just received the news that our beloved brother Mohamed Ali who was recently strongly attacked by Australian media has been martyred,” he wrote on Tuesday night.
Senator Brandis said it was not for the parliament to define “every single imaginable instance”.
“This is not about freedom of expression. It is about advocacy of terrorism,” Senator Brandis told parliament.
“Preventing young people becoming radicalised by measures such as this is absolutely critical.”
Liberal Democratic Party senator David Leyonhjelm decried the bill, saying “giving away freedom for security is like giving your possessions to a thief so you won’t be robbed”.
He was one of 12 senators, including the Greens, who opposed the bill.
The Greens are concerned the bill impinges on the rights of ordinary Australians and restricts freedom of expression and movement.
“Over time we will come to fully realise the freedoms we have traded away,” Greens senator Penny Wright told parliament.
The laws stipulate a “legitimate business” list of seven excuses, including aid work, journalism, official government travel or visiting family members.
Labor failed to change the list to encapsulate a broader range of excuses.
The bill still has to go through the House of Representatives, where its passage is all but guaranteed.
A third suite of laws to enable the collection of metadata is expected to be introduced next year.
– with AAP, ABC