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Karen Nettleton embarks on desperate trip to Syria to rescue Sharrouf children

Karen Nettleton, the mother-in-law of notorious Australian Islamic state terrorist Khaled Sharrouf is travelling to Turkey in a bid to recover her five grandchildren.

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Tara Nettleton's children stranded in Syria

Lawyer Charles Waterstreet speaks about the plight of Tara Nettleton's five children and grandchild now stranded in Syria. Vision courtesy ABC News 24.

With the children trapped in the Syrian city of Raqqa following the death of their mother, Tara Nettleton, Karen Nettleton left Sydney with her solicitor Robert van Aalt on Thursday night.

It is understood Ms Nettleton self-funded the trip. She had planned on being in Turkey for two to three weeks and will wait for the children to cross the border before checking into a safe house.

Tara Nettleton married Sharrouf as a teenager - and later relocated their children to Syria.

Sharrouf achieved global notoriety when he tweeted a picture of his son holding the severed head of a Syrian soldier captioned: "that's my boy".


Commenting on the move on Saturday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said everyone understood "the human dimension" of the case and the family's plight but stressed that national security would always be the government's primary concern.

The Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, said government officials had been in contact with the family in the light of the latest reports.

"This is a very tragic case and underscores the government's position that Australian citizens should not travel to the areas of conflict in Syria and Iraq," Ms Bishop said.

 "They not only put their own lives in mortal danger but they add to the misery and suffering of the people in Syria and Iraq."

Last month, Fairfax Media revealed, Tara Nettleton died in Syria from complications associated with appendicitis. The former Sydney woman is believed to have died some time ago after she was unable to access life-saving health services.

Sharrouf slipped out of Australia in December 2013 using his brother's passport and joined Islamic State, meeting up with his friend and fellow terrorist, Mohamed Elomar.

Tara and their children followed via Turkey soon afterwards. The eldest child, Zaynab, 15, who also goes by the name Umm Ayesha, was later married to Elomar, who was also killed last year.

Ms Nettleton's barrister, Charles Waterstreet, confirmed that she and Mr van Aalt had travelled to Turkey to await the recovery of the children.

He said the Australian Federal Police had been kept informed of the move. Mr Waterstreet said the situation was "extremely delicate".

"Caution should be exercised in reporting any detail other than the authorities are cooperating and all responsible measures are in place," Mr Waterstreet said.

An AFP spokesperson declined to comment when asked about Ms Nettleton's plans.

Fairfax Media