The West

Atrocities spur call for military action
Atrocities spur call for military action

Australia's military appears destined for two overseas hotspots after Tony Abbott revealed a "general request" to help repel the brutal Islamic State militants in northern Iraq and send troops to Ukraine.

The Prime Minister told Parliament yesterday there was no specific request for "actual military action" against the Islamic terror group, which has now posted internet videos of two US journalists being beheaded. But he said he was considering a general request and what Australia could possibly make available in Iraq to counter the terror group.

Australia has already joined humanitarian aid drops to the Iraqi town of Amirli, to which IS terrorists cut food, water and medical supplies for two months.

At the request of the US, Australia will also help deliver weapons to Kurdish forces fighting IS in Erbil, northern Iraq.

Mr Abbott said the beheading of US journalist Steven Sotloff underscored the threat of IS to the wider world.

"The extraordinary thing about this movement is that it does not simply do evil, it boasts of evil, it is proud of evil and it advertises its evil in a way almost never before seen at any time in the modern world," the PM said.

"You have to go back to the Middle Ages to see this arrogance in atrocity which we have seen from the movement."

Sotloff is the second US journalist an IS terrorist known as Jihadi John has beheaded. Last month, the group released a video of journalist James Foley, 40, being murdered in almost identical brutal fashion.

Mr Abbott said any specific request for our involvement would be judged on criteria including risk, whether there was a clear overall objective, a specific role for our forces and whether the overall humanitarian objective was consistent with the national interest. He said Cabinet would decide if Australia increased its military role in Iraq in consultation with the Opposition.

The latest video will intensify pressure on MI6, Scotland Yard and the FBI to identify the killer of both Foley and Sotloff, who has a deep voice and a London accent.

He is thought to be one of more than 500 Britons in Iraq and Syria fighting with Islamist terrorists.

There were fears last night that the British hostage displayed as the next victim could already be dead after US sources suggested Sotloff and Foley may have been killed at the same time.

Their videos appear to be in the same location, and unnamed gov-ernment sources quoted in the Wall Street Journal said it was possible Sotloff was killed immediately after Foley, whose death was made public on August 19.

The source suggested three could all have been killed then but the videos released weeks apart to increase impact.

About 20 other Western hostages are unaccounted for.

In the latest video, titled A Second Message to America, the jihadi nicknamed John by hostages as one of four British kidnappers known as The Beatles, stands beside Sotloff with a knife.

He blames US President Barack Obama for Sotloff's death because of his "insistence on continuing your bombings despite our serious warnings".

Sotloff says he is sure people know who he is and why he is there. In an obviously prepared statement, he harangues Mr Obama for making him pay the price for the President's interference.

The killer says: "Just as your missiles strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people."

On Ukraine, Mr Abbott said Australia would open an interim embassy in Kiev, in part to repay for support over the MH17 disaster, in which 38 Australians were "murdered by Russian-backed rebels".

Australian Ambassador to Poland Jean Dunn represents Australia in Ukraine.

"Ukraine continues to be subject to active destabilisation and, indeed, outright invasion from Russia, a country it has never sought to harm," Mr Abbott said.

Among other things, the embassy would support nine Australian Federal Police officers in Kiev charged with investigating the MH17 crash.

"With our European partners and allies, we are also considering short-term humanitarian assistance and non- lethal military assistance to Ukraine, and in the medium term we are considering civil and military capacity-building assistance," he said.

Labor MP Michael Danby, a former chairman of Parliament's foreign affairs committee, welcomed the move for a Kiev embassy, saying it was hard for Australia to understand events in Ukraine adequately from diplomats reporting from Moscow and Warsaw.

"With (Russian President) Mr (Vladimir) Putin telling the European Commission that 'If I want to, I can take Kiev in two weeks', it is critical that Australia is represented in Ukraine itself, not from Poland, and certainly not from Moscow," Mr Danby said.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is quietly lobbying other nations to build consensus for banning Mr Putin from the G20 summit in Brisbane this year.

The West Australian

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