Jake Bilardi, dubbed the “white jihadi” by the Australian press, apparently carried out a suicide bombing for ISIS, according to preliminary reports.
On social media, photos of Bilardi holding a rifle with bearded fighters behind a black flag had been heavily circulated. The 18-year-old was from Melbourne, Australia, according to media reports.
But now, it appears that he died in a bombing attack, according to Sky News and Nine News Australia.
#BREAKING: There are unconfirmed reports Australian teenager Jake Bilardi has carried out a suicide bombing for Islamic State in Iraq.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) March 11, 2015
— Nine News Australia (@9NewsAUS) March 11, 2015
The teen, who was also featured in ISIS propaganda videos, made claims on Twitter that he would commit terrorist attacks that would make the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks look like “child’s play,” reported News.com.au.
“What we have in store for you dogs will make 9/11 look like child’s play,” he wrote this week under a pseudonym. He also wrote: “Martin place was just the beginning for you dogs.”
Bilardi also claimed to have met high-ranking ISIS leaders, including Shaker Waheeb al-Fahdawi.
According to Australia’s The Herald Sun, he lived in Craigieburn before he dropped out of school and converted to Islam. A neighbor also described him as just “a boy, a confused boy.”
“What does he know about Islam? Why would he go there?” the neighbor asked.
The paper reported that his mother died several years ago due to illness.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Iraqi soldiers and allied Shiite militiamen swept into the Islamic State-held city of Tikrit on Wednesday, launching a two-front offensive to squeeze extremists out of Saddam Hussein’s hometown in a major test of the troops’ resolve.
Explosions and heavy gunfire echoed through Tikrit, a key way station for Iraqi forces trying to expel the militants who hold roughly a third of the country and neighboring Syria. The offensive also will serve as a major crucible for Iraqi forces, which collapsed under the extremists’ initial offensive last year and now face street-by-street fighting in one of the Islamic State group’s biggest strongholds.
Allied Iraqi forces first entered the city through its northern Qadisiyya neighborhood, according to video obtained by The Associated Press. Overhead, an attack helicopter fired missiles as soldiers and militiamen laid down heavy machine gunfire in the neighborhood’s dusty streets as downtown Tikrit loomed in the distance, black smoke rising overhead.
Officials quickly established a supply line through the neighborhood to reinforce troops, Salahuddin police Brig. Kheyon Rasheed told the state-run Iraqiyya television. Authorities offered no immediate casualty figures, though Iran’s state-run Press TV satellite channel reported that a mortar attack wounded one of its cameramen there.
A local official in Iraq’s Salahuddin province confirmed that Iraqi troops entered Qadisiyya and raised the Iraqi flag over Tikrit’s general hospital. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to brief journalists.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.