The grandmother of a young boy shown in an Islamic State propaganda video says she is devastated to see him being used as a “media tool” and insists he won’t be lost forever.
Karen Nettleton has also revealed she recently spoke with the six-year-old, who was shown in footage being grilled by her son-in-law, Khaled Sharrouf, about how to kill a non-Muslim and an Australian.
“He still has got his cute little voice and little lisp,” Mrs Nettleton told the ABC’s 7.30 program on Monday.
“(He said), ‘I love you, Nanna. I miss you, Nanna’.”
Sharrouf left Australia for the Middle East in 2013 and became an Islamic State fighter.
He had only been out of jail for a year after serving four years for plotting a high-level terrorist attack on Australian soil.
Later in 2013 his wife Tara Nettleton, who has since died, took the couple’s five children to live with their father in an IS stronghold in Syria.
Another of Sharrouf’s sons – then aged seven – has also been shown in a photograph holding the severed head of a slain soldier.
Mrs Nettleton said it pained her to see her youngest grandson in the video.
“I know what he’s like,” she said.
“He’s just been used, I think, as some sort of media tool.”
She said she had no idea where the group was and could not understand how the boy’s father could allow him to be exploited.
Recalling rocking the child to sleep, singing him songs and taking him swimming, she also wondered whether he and his siblings will want to come home after being brainwashed.
But she still holds hope they won’t be gone forever.
“They’re not lost, they’re not gone,” she said.
“They’re just kids. With the right help, they’ll be OK.”
The video is proof Sharrouf is alive and is being investigated by the NSW Joint Counter Terrorist Team.
Mrs Nettleton made a failed attempt to get her grandchildren out of the region last year and has previously appealed to the government to help them.
Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan believes the children of terrorists taken to war zones and exposed to unspeakable horrors deserve help.
“A young child who has been taken to a conflict zone is as much a victim of that parent’s bad behaviour,” he told News Corp Australia.
“But we need to make sure where they have been exposed to these sorts of horrible things, in the midst of the civil war, that they get some support from the Australian government.”