A British man killed while fighting with Islamist militant group al-Shabab in Kenya was second in command of his unit at the time, the BBC has learned.

Thomas Evans, 25, from Buckinghamshire, died in the thwarted attack on a military base on 14 June.

Police now say he was also the group’s cameraman, and captured images of the incident up until his death.

Kenyan security forces killed 11 gunmen, and two soldiers died in the raid near the Somali border.

High-profile attacks

Christipo Mutali, from the Kenyan police, says he witnessed the attack in which the 25-year-old died.

“He was the one carrying the video during the attack. And he was commanding ‘let’s move on, we are winning men, let’s go, come in, let us shoot, we are winning.

“There were two lines. He was the one leading the front line.”

Thomas Evans’ mother said he had met people who held “very twisted, warped ideas of Islam”

Al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda affiliate based in Somalia, has been behind a series of high-profile attacks including the Westgate shopping centre siege in Nairobi in 2013, and a violent assault on a university earlier this year in which nearly 150 people were killed.

BBC News correspondent Karen Allen said police had confirmed Evans, a Muslim convert who changed his name to Abdul Hakim, was second in command on the day of the latest raid.

He can apparently be heard in a recording shouting orders over a radio to younger al-Shabab fighters, our correspondent added.

Al-Shabab fighters want to overthrow the UN-backed Somali government

By Karen Allen, BBC News correspondent

The issue of foreign fighters joining al-Shabab is a deeply political one in Kenya.

The Kenyan government has seen a big recruitment drive by the Somali group here in its own backyard, but has always insisted al-Shabab is a global problem.

There will be a sense of vindication at the confirmation that Briton Thomas Evans was the second-in-command during last week’s siege. Likewise the announcement that a second foreigner – German national Andreas Martin Muller – was also said to be involved and is believed to be on the run.

No one is keen to speak openly about efforts to track foreign fighters, but a team of American “agents” I spotted in the north east of the country earlier this week hardly seemed a surprise – Britain, the US and Kenya share intelligence.

Western sources believe that Thomas Evans was one of around 100 British fighters who have joined al-Shabab. That figure is considered low compared with a couple of years ago when people were talking in the order of thousands.

Evans contacted his family in Wooburn Green in January 2012 to say he had travelled to Somalia to join the group.

Christipo Mutali, from the Kenyan police, says he witnessed the attack in which the 25-year-old died

British police had stopped him at Heathrow Airport in 2011 as he tried to board a plane to Kenya.

A few months later, he flew to Egypt, telling his family it was to learn Arabic.

It is now understood that, before he arrived in Somalia, Evans had tried to reach the Kenyan port of Mombasa from Egypt, but was stopped before he reached the border.

His mother, Sally, told the BBC her “whole world has fallen apart” when she heard of his death.

Sally Evans said her son Thomas had converted to Islam as “he believed he would go to paradise”

Speaking from her home on 15 June, she said he had met “some people with some very twisted, warped ideas of Islam” in the local area to begin with, and was later influenced by online material.

Ms Evans had previously told a committee of MPs that there had been a “massive failure” by UK authorities in allowing her son to leave Britain.

Al-Shabab is paying young men from Kenya’s poorest neighbourhoods to fight in Somalia
Al-Shabab means The Youth in Arabic and is allied to al-Qaeda.

It is an Islamist militant group battling the UN-backed government in Somalia, and has carried out a string of attacks in neighbouring Kenya.

It emerged as the radical youth wing of Somalia’s now-defunct Union of Islamic Courts, which controlled Mogadishu in 2006, before being forced out by Ethiopian forces.

There are numerous reports of foreign jihadists going to Somalia to help al-Shabab, from neighbouring countries, as well as the US and Europe.
It is banned as a terrorist group by both the US and the UK and is believed to have between 7,000 and 9,000 fighters.

Meanwhile, the Kenyan government has released photographs of 38 fighters believed to have been involved in al-Shabab’s latest attack. Among them is a German man, Andreas Martin Muller, who has been on a watch-list for the past six years.

Kenyan police have issued a $100,000 (£64,000) reward for the capture of the German national who has the alias Abu Nusaybah.

The reward is part of a police campaign known in Kiswahili as Kaa Chonjo Usinyamaze (“Be alert, don’t keep quiet”) which was launched to combat the threat from the jihadists.

BBC

An X Live Africa News Aggregation Service (http://xliveafrica.com)

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