ISIS has claimed in a propaganda video that an 18-year-old Australian recruit died after blowing himself up in a suicide bombing in Iraq on Wednesday, The New York Daily News reports. News of the fledgeling recruit surfaced when photos, allegedly posted to Twitter by the terror group, showed the alarmingly young-looking teen just before an attack on an Iraqi army unit. Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop told The Daily Mail she is still trying to confirm his involvement and death.
Born Jake Bilardi in Melbourne, the man's path toward radicalization is unexplained, but relatives have claimed it was triggered by his mother’s death from cancer. His aunt told a CNN affiliate, "He's just a young boy that went looking for something after he lost someone very very dear to him, his mother.”
Mourning a loss or not, he is accused of 21 coordinated bombings that killed multiple people in Ramadi, a city west of Baghdad, on Wednesday, The New York Times reports. And, this may not be the youth's first outing: The Guardian surfaced claims that before he ran off to Syria, the teenager had also made plans to launch attacks in his home city of Melbourne, citing a blog post written under his ISIS nickname, Abu Abdullah al-Australi, titled "From Melbourne to Ramadi: My Journey.” The paper states the boy had planned “a string of bombings across Melbourne, targeting foreign consulates and political/military targets as well as grenade and knife attacks on shopping [centers] and cafes.”
Of course, Bilardi is not the only teenager who’s left home to team up with the super-violent Al-Qaeda offshoot. In October, there was a pregnant Austrian teen; in February, the three girls who fled to Turkey from London en route to Syria. There are Americans, too, like the girls from Denver who were intercepted in Frankfurt.
It’s believed that ISIS is adept at using social media and other popular online forums like YouTube, Tumblr, and Ask.fm to directly reach out to young potential recruits. On the subject of Bilardi's apparent death, Prime Minister Tony Abbott stated to BBC that, “It’s very, very important that we do everything we can to try to safeguard our young people against the lure of this shocking, alien, and extreme ideology.”