By Matt Siegel
SYDNEY, July 18 (Reuters) - Reports that an Australian citizen was behind a deadly suicide blast in Iraq this week underscores Australia's efforts to stop its citizens from fighting in foreign conflicts, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Friday.
The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed three people on Thursday in the centre of Baghdad, an attack that it said had been carried out by an Australian citizen.
The group said on an affiliated Twitter feed that a man it called Abu Bakr al-Australi (the Australian) had detonated explosives in a vest he was wearing near a mosque, which would make him the first Australian suicide bomber in that conflict.
"This underscores the government's deep concerns about Australians who are going overseas to fight in foreign wars," Bishop told reporters in Brisbane.
"It is illegal, it is gravely dangerous...and if this report is true, it is a tragedy that a young Australian could become a suicide bomber and kill others in Iraq."
The Iraqi army and allied Shi'ite militia forces are trying to push back Sunni insurgents, who swept through northern Iraq last month to within 70 kilometres (45 miles) of Baghdad.
Australia has in recent months raised the alarm about the number of its citizens believed to be fighting alongside insurgents in Syria and Iraq, saying it suspects dozens have participated in the conflicts.
That has raised concerns about radicalised fighters committing terrorist acts when they return home, a threat the government has used to justify a package of major new intelligence legislation.
Earlier this week, Attorney General George Brandis announced sweeping national security reforms that would make it easier to track Australian citizens believed to have fought overseas both while they were abroad and after they returned home.
The laws would streamline the process by which the government obtains permission to search computers and private networks and allow for greater intelligence sharing between Australia's domestic and foreign spy services. (Editing by Matt Driskill)
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