News National Sharrouf’s mother-in-law ‘devastated’ by severed head photo
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Sharrouf’s mother-in-law ‘devastated’ by severed head photo

ABC
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Sydney grandmother Karen Nettleton has spoken of her dismay and devastation after seeing a photo of her grandson holding a severed head in Islamic State-controlled (ISIL) Syria.

Ms Nettleton, the mother-in-law of Australia’s most notorious Islamist militant Khaled Sharrouf, has told the ABC “it was a terrible picture”.

“I was devastated, I couldn’t function properly,” she said.

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The 54-year-old grandmother said she was concerned her grandson would be traumatised.

“The main thing I worry about is it’s going to follow him everywhere his whole life,” she said.

“For one picture to do that, you know, he’s a sweet, sweet boy,” she said.

The image was posted on Sharrouf’s Twitter account last October.

Ms Nettleton told the ABC’s 7.30 program she has never spoken to her nine-year-old grandson about it.

“I didn’t want to make him feel any responsibility for it really, because he wasn’t [responsible],” she said.

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Five of Khaled Sharrouf and Tara Nettleton’s children are believed to be living in an area controlled by Islamic State.

Ms Nettleton’s daughter Tara married Sharrouf when she was 15.

Early last year the 31-year-old only child travelled to Syria with her five children, now aged between four and 14.

Social Affairs Minister Scott Morrison has blamed Sharrouf and his wife for placing the children in what he described as a diabolical situation.

Ms Nettleton said she approached the Australian Federal Police (AFP) last year to help get her daughter and five grandchildren out of Syria, but they ultimately refused to help.

Last week ABC’S 7.30 program revealed that Sharrouf and his friend and fellow ISIL member Mohamed Elomar were believed to have been killed in an air strike targeting an ISIL convoy.

Elomar’s death has since been verified but Sharrouf’s fate remains unclear.

Ms Nettleton is now asking the Government to help get her family back to Australia, saying they are at risk in Syria.

But Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said there was not much the Government could do to help people leave Syria after being lured there by ISIL.

“It’s not a place that we have Australian troops, it’s not a place where we have diplomatic presence, and people need to recognise that this is an area that is controlled by these barbaric terrorists,” he said.

Last week Mr Dutton criticised Ms Nettleton for taking her plea to the press.

“The family should engage with the authorities, not conduct this discussion through the media,” he said.

Ms Nettleton said she had already done that, to no effect.

She said she was in contact with the AFP about a year ago and they were initially willing to help.

“They were saying they would look into helping us get Tara and the children out of Syria,” she said.

‘I was told that they wouldn’t be able to help us’

After several months of fruitful conversations mid-last year, Ms Nettleton was suddenly told the Government was no longer willing to help. She did not know what precipitated the sudden change of heart.

“I was talking to one of the agencies and I was told that they wouldn’t be able to help us,” she said.

“I was devastated because who else do you go to to get help to get your children out of a place like that? I certainly can’t go there and get them.”

She was frustrated by Mr Dutton’s remarks last Wednesday.

“Maybe he needs to talk to the agency and find out that we have [spoken to the AFP], they were our first point of contact,” she said.

ABC
Australian Islamic State recruit Khaled Sharrouf was said to be killed with fellow terrorist Mohamed Elomar. Photo: ABC

In a statement, an AFP spokeswoman said she could not comment on individual cases, but said the agency had no power to help Australians who travelled to Syria to fight for Islamic State.

“However, it should be noted that the AFP does not operate in Syria as it is an active and dangerous conflict zone, in which Australia has no consular presence,” the statement read.

“As such, the AFP is not in a position to provide assistance to Australians who choose to enter this area and seek assistance with their travel from Syria to a safer location.”

She said the AFP and the Government had repeatedly warned Australians against travelling to conflict zones in Iraq and Syria.

“Those who do so are fully aware of the risks and simply put themselves and others in danger,” she said.

Ms Nettleton also rejected suggestions that her 31-year-old daughter should face criminal charges if she returns to Australia.

“She hasn’t done anything wrong,” she said.

-ABC

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