Thursday 23 November 2017

'White Widow' spotted spying on embassies

Erin Conway-Smith Johannesburg

Samantha Lewthwaite, wanted by Kenya on an international arrest warrant, was allegedly spotted in South Africa's capital earlier this year conducting surveillance on foreign embassies.

The 29-year-old Briton, known as the White Widow, is said to have been in South Africa between 2008 and 2011, travelling under the assumed name Natalie Faye Webb on a fraudulently obtained passport.

In January and February of this year, she was allegedly caught on CCTV cameras watching embassies in the Arcadia area of Pretoria.

According to the 'City Press' report, this information came to light from South Africa's Jewish Community Security Organisation, which is said to have received a "highly credible" warning from Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.

The information was passed on to the South African police's crime-intelligence unit, "but the dysfunctional unit appears to have failed to conduct any surveillance to track her down," the report says.

Arcadia is home to the Union Buildings and South African president's official residence, in addition to many foreign embassies.

Home affairs minister Naledi Pandor said last week that Lewthwaite's last recorded use of the false passport was in February 2011. Later that year it was cancelled and added to a watch list.

Mrs Pandor refused to comment on allegations that Lewthwaite is in possession of other South African identity documents.

Anneli Botha, a terrorism expert at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, said she believed there was a "tremendous threat brewing" in South Africa, with the country not so much a direct target of Islamist terror groups than a "very active role player".

The country has become a convenient hiding place and base for operations, in part due to the availability of passports obtained through corruption, she said.

Ms Botha said she believed al-Shabaab would have no compunction about attacking a target in South Africa.

"If it is possible for anything good to come out of the Westgate attack, it will be to get South Africa out of its comfort zone, to get our heads out of the sand," Ms Botha said.

Mrs Pandor has denied that false South African passports are easily obtained, describing such accusations as "sensationalism" with stories that stretch the truth created "to harm the image of South Africa". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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