With the identity of the heinous attackers of the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, still a mystery, one name is becoming ubiquitous, Samantha Lewthwaite, or as she has become known, “The White Widow.”
Here’s what you need to know about Lewthwaite and her suspected involvement in the massacre.
1. A Witness to Westgate Reported the Terrorists Having a ‘Female Ringleader’
— The Times of London (@thetimes) September 23, 2013
Eyewitnesses to the terrorist attack in Nairobi that killed nearly 70 people have said that the terrorists had a “female ringleader.” Frank Musungu, a Sergeant Major in the Kenyan army told the Daily Nation newspaper:
They were not shooting to kill, they were shooting into the air to scare us away; I first thought that it was an ordinary robbery.
They were very young and the woman appeared to be lethal.
Another mall worker, identified only as Jarad, told The Nation about watching a co-worker getting shot:
She was at the cashier’s when these people came; we all went down and they confronted her, she did not object, she raised both her hands in the air as a sign she meant no harm but they shot her point blank. I saw her going down.
2. Kenya’s Goverment Confirmed the Involvement of a British Woman in the Attack
Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed told PBS (above) that a British woman was involved in the attack in addition to “two or three Americans.” A source in British intelligence told Channel 4 News there was a “possibility” that Lewthwaite was involved in the Westgate attack.
3. She Married One of the 7/7 Bombers in 2002
In 2002, Lewthwaite married Jermaine Lindsay, who was one of the suicide bombers in London on July 7, 2005. Lindsay killed 26 people in the attacks that became known as the “7/7 bombing.”
The couple met in person at a rally condemning US foreign policy in the Middle-East, having first met online.
In 2005, Lewthwaite condemned her husband’s actions but went on to marry another known radical Islamist Habib Ghani. Ghani is believed to have been killed during an internal strife in al-Shabaab earlier this month.
Lindsay was a Jamaican-born Muslim convert, who, according to The Independent: “…never made a secret of his extremist views.” He was raised by his mother in the working class town of Huddersfield in Yorkshire in Northern England where he’s alleged to have tried to convert students at his high-school to his radical Islamist belief’s.
4. Al-Shabaab Have Said They ‘Don’t Send Our Women on to the Battlefield’
The group charged with orchestrating the attack, al-Shabaab, denied that Lewthwaite was involved in the attack. Al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Dhere said in an interview with Channel 4 News:
We don’t send our women on to the battlefield. I am saying to you we do not use women on the battlefield.Those who describe the attackers as Americans and British are people who do not know what is going on in Westgate building.
The terrorist organization added:
The reason we attacked is to defend our people our country, because Kenya attacked us, they are still controlling parts of our land.
We have been peaceful neighbours, but they are the ones who attacked us and we are defending ourselves. Whether you are Muslim or Christian, the law says you have to defend yourself from those who attack you.
5. Lewthwaite is the Daughter of a British Soldier
Lewthwaite was born in Banbridge, County Down in Northern Ireland in 1983. She is the daughter of a British Army soldier who was stationed in Ireland at the height of the IRA terrorism campaign. At a young age her family moved to Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire in England, just outside of London. Lewthwaite’s mother was an Irish Catholic, reports The Daily Mail.
Lewthwaite’s father had previously told The Times newspaper in 2012 that he had not been in contact with his daughter but that he didn’t think she was involved in terrorism operations in Kenya.
Local politician Raj Khan who is a friend of Lewthwaite’s family told The Independent:
She was an average, British, young, ordinary girl. She had a very great personality. She didn’t have very good confidence.
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.
6. She Was a Islam Convert at a Young Age
At the age of 15 she converted to Islam. The BBC reported in 2012 that she never received any formal education in the religion.
7. She Has Been Based in East Africa Since at Least 2011
She has been wanted by Kenyan police since 2011 due to her links to al-Shabaab. It isn’t known how long Lewthwaite has been based in east Africa, though it’s reported she crossed the border between Kenya into Tanzania with her three children on December 26, 2011.
Then in March 2012, she was believed to be in Somalia, where she was actively planning a terror campaign along Kenya’s coastline. London Metropolitan police who have been tracking Lewthwaite think she has been travelling under the name Natalie Faye-Webb, a South African woman who was the victim of identity theft, reported the BBC in 2012.
8. One of Her Comrades-in-Arms is Standing Trial in Kenya on Terrorism Charges
One Lewthwaite’s known-accomplices, Jermaine Grant, is facing trial in Kenya over his alleged involvement in a mass-terror plot. Grant is a London native who stands charged of possessing bomb-making materials and plotting to detonate a bomb in Mombassa, Kenya’s second largest city.
9. She is Has Suspected Involvement in a Grenade Attack in August 2013
She was named as a suspect in an attack Mombasa in August 2013.
10. It’s Reported She Was Killed During the Westgate Attack
Media reports on Tuesday indicate that a white female member of a terrorist group was killed during the Westgate attack.