Julie Bishop has urged family and friends of girls at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Australia to report any suspicious behaviour to the police, describing it as a "brutal, barbaric practice".

The foreign minister made the statement after Guardian Australia reported the Australian federal police were investigating whether a girl had been taken from Brisbane overseas to undergo FGM.

It is understood the father of the girl, who is believed to between four and seven years old, took her to Africa before Christmas to have FGM carried out. The girl is originally from Sierra Leone but it is believed she may have been taken to Gambia for the procedure. Police are trying to ascertain where she is.

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