Australian special forces soldiers are on standby to rescue Australian diplomats from the country’s embassy in Baghdad, according to a Fairfax Media report.
The SAS, who were used to rescue Australians from East Timor in 1999, could be deployed if the security situation becomes so bad the staff could not leave without the assistance of the elite soldiers.
Sunni Militants have overrun large swaths of northern Iraq after attacking from neighbouring Syria, though their advance appears to have halted outside of the capital.
The militants, from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — an Al-Qaeda splinter group — captured predominantly Sunni Muslim territory, and analysts have said it would increasingly difficult for then to continue through Shia areas with such ease.
Earlier this week the group posted images on social media which appear to show them executing a large group of Iraqi soldiers, which will fuel sectarian tensions.
Media reports have speculated that Iran, a Shia power, as already deployed elite members of its Revolutionary Guard force. Militias in Baghdad have also been mobilised, and citizens have volunteered to fight alongside the Iraqi army is the militants attempt to take the capital.
The United States is weighing its options, which could include air strikes, and Australia could also participate in any action to combat ISIS.
The Fairfax Media report says it is unlikely the SAS will be needed, but that the special forces unit was on standby, preparing for the worst-possible scenario.
Greg Barton, of Monash University’s Global Terrorism Research Centre told Fairfax that Australians previously fighting with ISIS in Syria had likely crossed the border and were now with the group in Iraq.
“I imagine it’s only a matter of time [before Australians fight in Iraq with ISIL]”, he said.
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