• Australian Islamic State fighter Khaled Sharrouf (ABC)
Julie Bishop has reportedly ordered an appraisal of how the children and grandchild of Tara Nettleton and Khaled Sharrouf can be brought home.
Source:
AAP
11 Feb 2016 - 5:53 AM  UPDATED 11 Feb 2016 - 7:04 PM

The federal government is believed to be considering ways of extracting the imperilled orphans of Tara Nettleton and Khaled Sharrouf, as well as a grandchild, who remain stranded in the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa in Syria.

Fourteen-year-old Zynab is likely to have been left as the family elder to her five, 10, 11 and 13-year-old siblings, as well as her own baby girl, in violent Raqqa.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australian authorities were unable to confirm reports on Thursday that Tara Nettleton had died in Syria in September from complications stemming from an appendix operation.

"If confirmed, this is a tragic circumstance for the children, who are in a war zone through no fault of their own," Ms Bishop said, describing them as "victims of their parents' extremist ideology and reckless decision to travel to Syria".

"Due to the extremely dangerous security situation there, the Australian government has no capacity to confirm Nettleton's death, and no capacity to provide consular assistance to the children."

It's understood, however, that Australian authorities believe the children could be assisted if they were able to reach the Turkish border.

Whether that is at all possible is unclear.

It was also reported on Thursday afternoon, by News Corp, that Ms Bishop had ordered an appraisal of ways the children could be extracted.

Speaking on behalf of Ms Nettleton's mother, Karen Nettleton, lawyer Charles Waterstreet said he believed the children, who are "victims of crime", would willingly come home.

"On my own behalf and on her behalf I request the Australian government do everything that they possibly can to get those children away from danger," he told ABC Radio.

Mr Waterstreet said that while Australian authorities may not be able to act overtly to rescue the children, it could act covertly.

"Tara was a very young girl when she married, and now grandchildren and a young baby are left without anyone to look after them."

Tara Nettleton and her five children joined Sharrouf in Syria in 2014. The eldest daughter, Zynab, then married Sharrouf's friend and Islamic State fighter Mohamed Elomar, who was killed in a drone strike last June before their daughter, Ayesha, was born.

Reports that Sharrouf - who gained notoriety when he posted photos on social media of his and Tara Nettleton's son holding the severed head of a Syrian soldier - had also been killed have not been confirmed.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the government would have to consider what horrors the children may have been exposed to, or if they presented a threat.

"Ultimately the government's clear objective is to keep the Australian public safe, and we'd have to look at the individual circumstances to see what the kids may have been through, what they've been exposed to, whether or not later in life they'd pose a threat," he told Sydney radio 2GB on Thursday.

"It's a very complicated mess."