In the wake of the Kenyan mall attack that dominated headlines last week, the news focus has largely shifted to one of the alleged perpetrators in particular. Samantha Lewthwaite, popularly dubbed "The White Widow," is rumored to have been involved in the siege of Nairobi's Westgate shopping center that left at least 72 people dead after a four-day battle. Not much is known about the surviving group of Al Shabaab militants, five of whom were killed in the incident. But some have suggested that Americans were among those involved, and hostages reported hearing a woman speak English to the Somali attackers. While authorities claim there is no direct evidence yet connecting her, Lewthwaite appeared to be a prime suspect after Interpol issued a “red notice” Thursday for her arrest. But who is the White Widow?
The 29-year-old Lewthwaite is the widow of Germaine Lindsay, one of the four suicide bombers who attacked the London Underground in 2005. Born in Northern Ireland and raised Christian, she reportedly converted to Islam at 15 after her parents divorced. She met Lindsay in a Muslim chat room and married not long after, in 2002. Her parents refused to attend the ceremony.
After Lindsay killed himself in 2005, Lewthwaite denied any knowledge or involvement in the attacks. "I totally condemn and am horrified by the atrocities," she said at the time. "I am the wife of Germaine Lindsay, and never predicted or imagined that he was involved in such horrific activities. He was a loving husband and father. I am trying to come to terms with the recent events. My whole world has fallen apart, and my thoughts are with the families of the victims of this incomprehensible devastation."
Around 2009, Lewthwaite disappeared, along with her three children. She was believed to have married a man from London, Habib Saleh Ghani, who allegedly kept company with Asif Mohammed Hanif, the UK's first Islamist suicide bomber. Early last year, Kenyan officials issued an arrest warrant for a woman believed to be Lewthwaite, who used a fake South African passport under the name Natalie Faye Web. (The real Web was later found to have been a victim of identity theft.) The woman was allegedly involved with Al Shabaab, which was planning attacks on Kenya at the time.
Yesterday's "red notice," however, is not connected to the Westgate attack; it actually stems from a 2012 arrest warrant issued by Kenyan authorities, for whom she is wanted in connection to planned attacks in Mombasa. Further, she was named as one of the suspects in a grenade attack on a Mombasa bar in June of last year.
As for the Westgate attack, authorities are being cautious even if the press is less inclined to do so. Even though Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed told PBS that a British woman who has “done this many times before” was involved, and an international intelligence source told the Guardian, "We cannot rule out that Lewthwaite played a role in this," no government has officially named her a suspect. (NYTimes)
Photo: Via The New York Times.