Australian govt grapples with what to do about Australian IS fighter's kids in Syria

Australia is grappling with what to do with three children whose parents took them to Syria five years ago.

The parents and two of the children have since died. Three children, including a 17-year-old who has two children of her own and is pregnant, remain in a refugee camp.

Their now-dead father is the notorious Islamic State (IS) fighter Khalad Sharraouf.

From the suburbs in Sydney, a bewildered Karen Nettleton is searching for five of her own family. They are somewhere among these 70,000 people living in squalor.

The ABC's Four Corners programme travelled with Nettleton on her third rescue attempt.

Five years ago, Nettleton's daughter Tara fled to Syria with her five children. She went to join her husband, notorious Australian IS fighter Khaled Sharrouf.

While there, Sharrouf posted a now-infamous photo of his then seven-year-old son holding a severed head. That boy is now dead, as are his parents and one of his brothers.

But the three surviving children, aged 17, 16 and eight, remain in a refugee camp. The eldest, Zaynab, now has two children of her own and is pregnant.

Authorities refused to help, so Karen Nettleton found them herself. Karen met her great-grandchildren for the first time, and Zaynab wants to return to Australia.

"We weren't the ones who chose to come here in the first place; we were brought here by our parents and now that our parents are gone for me and my children I want to live a normal life just like anyone would want to live in a normal life," she said.

Her grandmother wants her out too.

"She will give birth in the camp and that just can't happen. Babies die in there." 

In 2015, women enslaved by Khaled Sharrouf reportedly claimed the children threatened them with violence for having a different religion.

Some have said they're a possible threat to Australia if they return. Their grandma disagrees.

"Just because their last name is Sharrouf doesn't mean they're monsters. Are my children a threat to Australia? Absolutely not."

Karen Nettleton has left Syria without her family

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday that Australia is working "quietly behind the scenes", but it's still unclear when or if the family will be allowed to return home.