The first Australian suicide bomber in Iraq reportedly killed three people in the heart of Baghdad on Thursday, raising the involvement of local jihadists in the spiralling violence to a chilling new level.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) announced on an affiliated Twitter feed overnight that a man styled as Abu Bakr al-Australi had detonated an explosives vest near a Shiite mosque in a market near the middle of the Iraqi capital. More than 90 people were also injured in the blast.
ISIL did not give the man's real name, but most Australian jihadists use "al-Australi" in their nom de guerre, and such official reports by ISIL are usually accurate.
Iraqi forces are still battling the insurgency of ISIL to the north of Baghdad, where ISIL's recent lightning advance has hit a wall. But it has long been feared that ISIL would increasingly take the fight into the capital by sending in suicide bombers.
Notorious Sydney jihadist Mohamed Elomar welcomed the news on his own Twitter account, writing "may Allah accept him".
In September, a man believed to be Australian, going by the name Abu Asma al Australi, blew himself up in an attack on an army checkpoint in north-eastern Syria, but this latest bombing would be the first in Iraq, into which some Australians are known to have drifted in recent weeks.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Friday that she was aware of reports of the suicide bomber in Iraq.
''This underscores the Government’s deep concerns about Australians who are going overseas to fight in foreign wars,'' she told reporters in Brisbane.
''It is illegal, it is gravely dangerous and they are being radicalised and if this report is true, it is a tragedy that a young Australian could become a suicide bomber and kill others in Iraq.
''And that's why we are taking this matter exceedingly seriously and we're doing all we can to prevent people from going overseas as foreign fighters . . . and we will continue to work tirelessly to prevent Australians being radicalised and coming back home with their extremist ways and ideology.''
Andrew Zammit, a researcher at Monash University's Global Terrorism Research Centre, said the latest report underscored the depth of the problem Australia was facing.
"In the past year we've seen two Australian suicide bombers in Syria and Iraq, reports of Australian jihadists murdering captives, and a flow of fighters that doesn't appear to have slowed down. This is a problem we'll be facing for a while."
ASIO believes that about 150 Australians are involved with extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, with about 60 fighting in the region at the moment.
ASIO boss David Irvine on Wednesday expressed fresh concerns about the "tens" of fighters who have already returned home and may pose a terrorism threat.