Families of jihadis: ‘We’re the forgotten victims’

The brother of a British jihadi, killed while fighting alongside the terror group al Shabab, is setting up a support group to help others who have suffered the trauma of having an extremist in the family.

Michael Evans said he was compelled to set up the support network because of the isolation his family felt on discovering his brother Thomas had fled the UK to join up with the terror organisation in Somalia.

Thomas Evans, 25, from High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, converted to Islam before leaving the UK in 2012.

Three years later, he was killed as al Shabab fighters exchanged fire with soldiers in Kenya.

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Video: What’s it like being related to a jihadi?

Mr Evans told Sky News that the years after his brother joined up with the terror group were extremely difficult for him and his family.

“It was really difficult because people knew Tom round here. When they asked where he was, how do you tell them? How do you say your brother’s a terrorist? It’s not something you can really say.

“I didn’t choose to go through this. I was a victim of circumstance. If I can use what I’ve learned over the past five years to help just one family, then I’ll feel like I’ve done my job.”

Thomas Evans

Image: Thomas Evans travelled to Kenya to fight with al Shabab

Mr Evans will be working alongside a small group from the counter-extremism charity Faith Matters, offering practical help, advice and support, not just to the families of jihadis but to relatives of right-wing extremists as well.

Mr Evans’ mother, Sally, said that for years she simply did not tell anyone about her other son’s descent into extremism.

Mrs Evans said she was deeply traumatised by the death of Thomas, who changed his name to Abdul Hakim on converting to Islam.

Michael Evans (R) and Thomas Evans

Image: Michael Evans (R) pictured with his brother Thomas (L) during their childhood days

“I’m still very emotional over Thomas. I don’t know how I’ll ever… I’ll always miss him.

“In life, I just sort of carry on. Well you have to don’t you, you just have to get up and carry on.”

The mother of another British jihadi, killed in a drone strike in Syria, said the families of extremists were the forgotten victims, often shunned by communities back home in the UK.

Khadijah Kamara, whose son Ibrahim left to fight in Syria four years ago, said she suffered years of verbal abuse and isolation in her home town of Brighton.

Khadija Kamara

Image: Khadijah Kamara says she has suffered several years of verbal abuse and isolation

The 19-year-old had travelled out to Syria in late 2013, after joining three Brighton brothers to fight for Jabhat al Nusra, an al Qaeda affiliate.

His mother, who runs a small charity shop in Brighton, said her mental health suffered after her son’s death.

“When I lost my son, I didn’t know where to turn to. I had a breakdown.

“I just want people to know that we exist, we feel pain. We are as shocked as other people are and this was as unexpected for us as it was for everyone else.”

Ibrahim Kamara

Image: Ibrahim Kamara is believed to have been killed in Syria

Breaking down in tears the mother of three, originally from Sierra Leone, said: “It shouldn’t be like that. It shouldn’t be like that. We do feel pain, we miss them. It shouldn’t be like that and adding more to our wounds is not fair.”

The rise and now rapid demise of extremist groups, like Islamic State, has left many families in the UK suffering a double trauma: having to come to terms with the loss of a loved one, as well as facing up to the fact that loved one was also a terrorist.

Mr Evans’ new support group aims to offer them at least some comfort and help.