A young Australian Islamic State fighter, Jake Bilardi, has been identified by ISIS as having died in a coordinated suicide bombing attack in the Iraqi city of Ramadi on Wednesday.
In the capital of Iraq’s embattled Anbar province, 13 suicide car bombs exploded almost simultaneously, according to the Associated Press. At least 10 people were killed and 30 wounded in the attack. ISIS said in an online statement that it used foreign fighters from Australia, Belgium, Syria and Uzbekistan to undertake the attack.
On Tuesday, Abu Abdullah al-Australi, who was prominent on Twitter, was identified as 18-year-old Melbourne teenager Bilardi, who converted to Islam at the age of 13 after his mother died. He left Australia last year after dropping out of school and buying a one-way ticket to Turkey.
Billardi tweeted on Tuesday that the Australian news media had outed him, before his last known account was suspended by Twitter. Two days later, social media users on the ground in Iraq announced the teen was one of the suicide bombers in Wednesday’s attack. The accounts posted photographs of Bilardi sitting in a van, with a description of him as “martyrdom-seeker”.
— War correspondent (@General45425) March 11, 2015
— AlGhimari (@Allmorabitt10) March 11, 2015
The quiet schoolboy from Melbourne kept a blog in the lead-up to his journey to Iraq and Syria, as well as his time fighting for ISIS. The blog, titled “From the Eyes of a Muhajir,” has now been deleted but cached versions remain online.
In the blog, which runs throughout January and February this year, the highly-intellectual Bilardi details his journey to join the Islamic State, his life in Australia and in some entries praises what he calls “successful missions” around the world — from Sydney’s Lindt Cafe siege where two Australians and the gunman were killed, to the Charlie Hebdo attack in France where 12 people died.
In the propaganda post, titled “Let Them Feel Our Pain,” Bilardi calls for the murder of civilians in Australia using household items to avoid detection. From here, the teen’s views become more and more radicalised by ISIS. He identifies Australia as a land of “filth and corruption” and “wants to see heads roll.”
On Jan. 13, Bilardi wrote a post titled “From Melbourne to Ramadi,” where he speaks about learning from his six older siblings about history, politics and the world, before spending many hours researching the situation in the Middle East, and diving deeper into historic injustices. It was this research that would lead him to slowly being radicalised by the Islamic State and to “become certain that violent global revolution was the answer to the world’s ills.”
“It was from my investigations into the invasions and occupations of both Iraq and Afghanistan that gave birth to my disdain for the United States and its allies, including Australia,” Bilardi wrote. “It was also the start of my respect for the mujahideen that would only grow to develop into a love of Islam and ultimately bring me here to the Islamic State.”
Around the time of the Arab Spring, Bilardi detailed his love of the mujahideen (those engaged in jihad) turned from political admiration to a religious fascination. He also says despite being atheist he found answers in the faith of Islam.
“Slowly but surely I began being drawn towards the religion and it was no longer a political interest for me but the truth I had been circling around for years with my research into the mujahideen,” he wrote.
In the same post, Bilardi then details how he was desperate to make hijra (the journey to Mecca) but could not locate any contacts. He decided to create what he called a “Plan B,” in which he would launch a terrorist attack locally.
“Fearing possible attempts by the increasingly-intrusive authorities in Australia to prevent my departure I began drawing up a Plan B. This plan involved launching a string of bombings across Melbourne, targeting foreign consulates and political/military targets as well as grenade and knife attacks on shopping centres and cafes and culminating with myself detonating a belt of explosives amongst the kuffar (non-believers),” Bilardi wrote.
He instead decided to wait and follow through with his original plan of getting out of the country, even if it meant crossing the border from Turkey to Syria alone without any assistance. Instead, he befriended a man online who helped him make the journey and arrived in the Aleppo province in Syria.
He says he signed up for a “martyrdom operation” immediately and was transferred to Iraq, where he was part of an unsuccessful suicide mission. He then moved to the city of Ramadi, where he waited for Wednesday’s mission.
“I turned to fighting in the city before once again registering for a martyrdom operation, a decision that would bring me to the large yet modest city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province,” Bilardi wrote. “And that is where I sit today, waiting for my turn to stand before Allah.”
— AlGhimari (@Allmorabitt10) March 11, 2015
In Ramadi in January, Ballardi wrote in a post titled “Coming Face-to-Face With the Enemy” that he was stationed in a house on the front line, where ISIS members make their way through tunnels joining the houses to avoid detection by the U.S. military drones, snipers and enemy soldiers. He said he could never have prepared for seeing the bodies of close friends tangled around the metal of cars and the constant “dance with death.”
Bilardi had been waiting since this point in January for his death mission, with his plan to end the ongoing stalemate in Ramadi and help ISIS take control. There are conflicting reports on Wednesday as to whether the latest attack allowed ISIS to take control of the government-held city.
“With a current waiting list of 12 martyrdom bombers, of which I am one, the Islamic State has the opportunity to launch large assaults and make big gains,” Bilardi wrote on Jan. 16. “Inshallah (God willing) all the martyrdom operations will be successful in opening up the enemy’s positions and very soon the year-long battle for Ramadi can be brought to a close.”
His last known post was in February. Just over one month later, Islamic State militants claim that Bilardi’s suicide attack was completed, and that he killed himself in the attack in the Iraqi city of Ramadi at 18 years old.
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