In what may be one of the most shocking photos passed around on social media, a 7-year-old Australian boy is seen holding up a severed head in Syria.
"That's my boy," reads the caption reportedly posted by Khaled Sharrouf, a convicted terrorist who fled Australia to join the Islamic State militants waging war in Syria and Iraq.
Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the photo on Tuesday.
"This image, perhaps even an iconic photograph... really one of the most disturbing, stomach-turning, grotesque photographs ever displayed," Kerry said after a security meeting in Sydney, in remarks quoted by The Associated Press.
"Of a 7-year-old child holding a severed head up with pride and with the support and encouragement of a parent, with brothers there," Kerry said. "That child should be in school, that child should be out learning about a future, that child should be playing with other kids, not holding a severed head and out in the field of combat."
WARNING: The following image, while censored, is brutal and graphic.
— TEN Eyewitness News (@channeltennews) August 11, 2014
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, also in Australia, commented on the photo on Monday.
“ISIL is a threat to the civilized world, certainly to the United States, to our interests, as it is to Europe, it is to Australia,” Hagel said, according to the Daily Telegraph. “I think reflected on the local newspaper I saw this morning, with the picture on the front page, it’s pretty graphic evidence of the real threat that ISIL represents.”
ISIL is another abbreviation used for the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott also condemned the image.
“There are more photographs in newspapers in Australia today of the kind of hideous atrocities that this group is capable of,” Abbott told ABC Radio, according to The Australian. “(The) Islamic State -- as they’re now calling themselves -- it’s not just a terrorist group, it’s a terrorist army and they’re seeking not just a terrorist enclave but effectively a terrorist state, a terrorist nation."
Sharrouf was convicted in Australia on terror-related charges in connection with a 2005 plot and sentenced to five years in prison, the Washington Post reported. Once released, he was forbidden from leaving the country. However, last year, he used his brother's passport to flee, Stuff.co.nz said.
And it appears he's taken his family with him.
Another recent image Sharrouf sent out via social media shows him with three children believed to be his, all in fatigues and holding weapons.
Australian man Khaled Sharrouf and his sons in front of an Islamic State flag in Syria. pic.twitter.com/QSAI8T7rtx
— Syed Amir (@sdamir57) August 11, 2014