Bishop condemns Iraq terrorist group
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has condemned military attacks launched by an Islamist terrorist group in Iraq, which has stunned authorities by capturing two major cities in just days.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – described as one of the world’s most deadly and active terrorist organisations – seized Tikrit overnight a day after taking Mosul city.
It now controls large swathes of territory in northern Iraq and north-eastern Syria, where it’s fighting to establish an Islamic state and enforce its strict version of sharia law.
Ms Bishop expressed her deep concern at ISIL’s military advance, and their kidnapping of Turkish diplomats in Mosul.
“The Australian government condemns in the strongest terms the attack, and taking of Turkish consular staff as hostages by ISIL,” Ms Bishop told AAP in a statement.
“We join Turkey and the international community in calling for the immediate release of Turkey’s kidnapped diplomatic personnel.”
ISIL was listed as a terrorist organisation by the federal government in December amid concerns Australian fighters in Syria could be signing up to join its swelling ranks.
The government says it’s attracting a large number of foreign fighters, including Westerners, and uses cash from kidnapping and extortion to buy weapons and run its campaigns in Iraq and Syria.
Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek expressed concern at the threat posed by this extremist group in the region.
“We have sought an urgent briefing from the government on the recent events,” a spokesman for Ms Plibersek told AAP on Thursday.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Wednesday updated its travel advice to Mosul, a city of two million people, recommending Australians evacuate immediately if safe to do so.
It warned the government could not help any Australians there due to the challenging security situation.
Australia officially ended its six-year military presence in Iraq in 2009, but only withdrew its last two officers in November last year.