Kenya warns of foreign fighter threat across Horn of Africa
Foreign fighters with Somalia’s Shebab insurgents pose a risk to Europe if troops fail to stop them, Kenya’s deputy president warned Thursday, days after the first British jihadi was killed in Kenya.
“Foreign fighters from far afield, some from Europe, are in the field here in the Horn of Africa,” Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto said, speaking at conference in Nairobi on countering violent extremism.
“If they escape our security forces, they will return to their countries of origin to pursue what they have brutally sought here.”
Some 300 security experts and civil society organisations from over 30 countries are meeting in the Kenyan capital for the three-day conference which opened Thursday.
Briton Thomas Evans was among a group of Shebab militants killed last week in Kenya after a failed raid on an army base.
Evans, in his mid-20s and also known as Abdul Hakim, was a Muslim convert whose family lives in Buckinghamshire in southern England. In 2011, he reportedly travelled to Somalia, succeeding on his third attempt to join Shebab.
Video footage reportedly shot by Evans during the battle in which he was killed was released Thursday by British broadcaster ITV, showing the militants in a fierce firefight.
The footage also showed militants embracing each other before the attack, including apparent footage of wanted German national Andreas Muller.
The Shebab were once a magnet for foreign volunteers, but their capacity to recruit has in recent years been eclipsed by the rise of Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, while several foreign Shebab members have fallen victim to in-fighting and purges.
The highest-profile British Shebab supporter is terror suspect Samantha Lewthwaite, known as the “White Widow”. She is wanted in Kenya on charges of being in possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony dating back to December 2011.
Lewthwaite, a 31-year-old Muslim convert, is the widow of Germaine Lindsay, one of four Islamist suicide bombers who attacked the London transport network on July 7, 2005, killing 52 people.