REPORT: An Australian has been killed in Syria, fighting against Islamic State

An explosion in the Syrian city of Kobani last year. Photo: Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images.

An Australian is believed to have been killed fighting against Islamic State in northern Syria, the ABC reports.

Initial reports suggested it may have been a former soldier and the Northern Territory Labor Party president, Matthew Gardiner, 43, who headed to the conflict zone in January to join Kurdish forces in the battle against Muslim extremists, despite Australian laws that make it illegal to fight on either side of the conflict in Syria.

Around 90 Australians are believed to be in Syria fighting for Islamic State, but the number on the Western-backed Kurdish side is unknown.

Gardiner, who resigned as secretary of the territory’s largest union, Voices United, fought in Somalia in the 1990s as a member of the Australian Army. He’s believed to have used social media to make contact with Kurdish militia forces.

The ABC reports that the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights believes an Australian was killed on Tuesday when IS forces attacked Kurdish militia near Tal Hamis, on the border between Iraq and Turkey, but did not release a name.

The ABC says it was told by Kurdish officials that Gardiner was in the area, providing medical assistance rather than as a frontline soldier. No-one has been able to contact him since his departure from Australia.

But subsequent reports are emerging that photos of the man killed are not of Gardiner.

The Kurdish militia is being supported by the US-led coalition, which includes Australian advisers, in the fight against IS.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has told parliament that as many as 40 Australian women have secretly traveled to Iraq and Syria to engage in or support terrorist activity.

She has appealed to schools and families to warn authorities if they have any information on these women.

While some have become jihad­i brides, others have joined all-female groups called Da’ish, an extremist group known for its exploitation of women as sexual slaves.

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