Thursday 22 February 2018

Interpol alert for 'White Widow'

An international arrest warrant has been issued for British terror suspect Samantha Lewthwaite (Interpol)
An international arrest warrant has been issued for British terror suspect Samantha Lewthwaite (Interpol)
The Red Notice issued for the arrest of Samantha Lewthwaite (Interpol)
Samantha Lewthwaite has been dubbed the 'White Widow'

Interpol has issued an arrest notice for Samantha Lewthwaite, the fugitive Briton whom news media have dubbed the "White Widow".

The international police agency says the notice was issued at the request of Kenya, where she is wanted on charges of possessing explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony in December 2011.

Lewthwaite was married to one of the suicide bombers who attacked London's transport network in 2005.

She is wanted by Kenyan authorities over alleged involvement in a plot to bomb holiday resorts there.

News media speculated about her possible involvement in last week's attack on a Nairobi mall after a Kenyan minister said a British woman was in the group. There has been no evidence to link her to the attack.

Social media reports that a white female was leading last week's terrorist attack on an upscale Nairobi shopping mall - followed by comments from Kenya's foreign minister that a British woman had been involved - led some British broadcasters and newspapers to link Lewthwaite to the recent attack on the Westgate mall, despite the lack of hard evidence that she was involved.

The Interpol notice made no mention of Westgate, however, saying that Lewthwaite is wanted on charges of possessing explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony in December 2011.

African authorities have linked her to other attacks as well - again, without presenting evidence of her involvement. She is believed to have been questioned by police once but was not taken into custody.

Lewthwaite, a 29-year-old Muslim convert, originally criticised her late husband - Jermaine Lindsay - for taking part in the transit attacks, but later apparently embraced the jihadi cause.

She told The Sun newspaper in September 2005 that her husband had fallen under the influence of radical mosques.

"How these people could have turned him and poisoned his mind is dreadful," the newspaper quoted her as saying. "He was an innocent, naive and simple man. I suppose he must have been an ideal candidate.

"He was so angry when he saw Muslim civilians being killed on the streets of Iraq, Bosnia, Palestine and Israel - and always said it was the innocent who suffered."

Lewthwaite, the daughter of a former British soldier, was born in Northern Ireland and grew up in Aylesbury, a commuter hub north-west of London.

She converted to Islam - reportedly while in her teens - and went on to study religion and politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. It was around that time she met Lindsay, first in an internet chat room and later at a London demonstration against the war in Iraq.

The coupled married in an Islamic ceremony on October 30 2002 and moved back to Aylesbury a year later.

Local city councillor Raj Khan, who knew Lewthwaite's relatives in Aylesbury, recalls her as "an average British, young, ordinary girl".

"She was not strong-headed. And that's why I find it absolutely amazing that she is supposed to be the head of an international criminal terrorist organisation," he told the Press Association.

Fifteen days after the London attacks, Lewthwaite gave birth to the couple's second child, a daughter. In the immediate aftermath of the bombings, she insisted that her husband - a carpet fitter - "wasn't the sort of person who'd do this".

After it became clear the Jamaica-born Briton had been involved, Lewthwaite condemned the attacks - and then stayed largely out of view until March 2012, when her name surfaced in a Kenyan investigation into terror funding.

Officials at first said they were looking for someone using her identity - then later said they were looking for her. They alleged that Lewthwaite and other foreigners travelled to Kenya in late 2011 to plan a bomb attack on the Kenyan coast over the Christmas holidays.

Authorities said Lewthwaite - who was pregnant by her new Kenyan husband - was in charge of finances for the planned attack, and suspected she had rented several houses in upmarket areas in Mombasa to assemble a bomb.

The group was allegedly collaborating with Kenyans sympathetic to al-Shabab, the Somalia-based al Qaida affiliate that has claimed responsibility for the Kenyan mall attack.

Kenyan anti-terrorism police suspected Lewthwaite was working with Musa Hussein Abdi, who was shot dead with an al Qaida boss in Somalia in June 2011. In December 2011, they found a woman they believed to be Lewthwaite in his house but let her go after she showed them a South African passport.

Police later realised the passport was fraudulent and returned to the house, but she was gone.

Officials believe she fled to Somalia that same month.

Press Association

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in World News