15 Jun 2015

UK jihadist Thomas Evans ‘killed with al-Shabaab’

British Muslim convert Thomas Evans is reported to have died fighting for the Islamist terror group al-Shabaab in Kenya.

Al-Shabaab militant Thomas Evans

The Kenyan military said it had killed an al-Shabaab commander and possibly a Briton who had been involved in fighting over the weekend.

Thomas Evans, 25, contacted his family to say he had travelled to Somalia to join the organisation in 2012 after leaving their home in Buckinghamshire.

Military officials in Kenya are working to establish whether he was among suspected extremists killed in an attack on an army camp in Lamu County, which they said had led to the deaths of 11 al-Shabaab fighters and two soldiers.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: “We are aware of reports of the death of a British national in Kenya. We are not able to confirm them at this time.”

Al-Shabaab, which is banned in the UK, is a Somalia-based group with links to al-Qaeda and has waged a violent campaign against the Somali transitional federal government for several years.

Up to 50 Britons are believed to have joined the group, which was responsible for the Westgate shopping centre attack in Nairobi in 2013.

Al-Shabaab militant Thomas Evans

Earlier this year, Mr Evans’s mother Sally told MPs on the home affairs select committee her son was a “normal teenage lad” before turning to Islam in 2009.

Ms Evans, from Wooburn Green in Buckinghamshire, said she was initially pleased as he had previously gone off the rails. “He had done one or two things I wasn’t proud of, so I was quite happy for him to follow Islam if that was what he wanted,” she said. “But slowly he started to drift down a path that was not right.”

Ms Evans said Thomas began refusing to use the same pots and pans as her and his younger brother Michael. At 21, he announced he was moving to Kenya and bought a single plane ticket. “I couldn’t stop him,” she said.

Thomas was turned back at the airport by police, but later sold his CDs and other possessions and told his family he was travelling to Egypt. “I was relieved, because he said he was only going for six months to learn the language. He did tell me he was coming home.”

‘Biggest shock in the world’

In 2011, police came to their house and told them Thomas had been moving around more widely, and they lost track of him. The following year, he called and said he had joined al-Shabaab.

“He rang up then and told us he was in Somalia and had joined al-Shabaab, and not to worry,” Ms Evans said. “In all honesty, I didn’t know what al-Shabaab was.” When she realised that her son had joined a terror group and might be prepared to become a suicide bomber, it was the “biggest shock in the world”.

Ms Evans said she had given police all the information she had, as she would prefer Thomas to be in prison in the UK than dead or carrying out atrocities abroad. “Then at least I would know that he was safe,” she said.

Al-Shabaab, which is seeking to overthrow the western-backed Somali government and impose its strict interpretation of Islamic law, has frequently targeted neighbouring Kenya in recent years, saying it is retaliating for Kenya’s participation in an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia.