By Cassandra Vinograd
LONDON: The tabloids call her “the white widow,” a British-born Muslim convert who was married to one of the suicide bombers in the 2005 attack on London’s transit system. And for days now, the British media have been rife with speculation she took part in the terrorist takeover at a Nairobi shopping mall.
On Thursday, Interpol, acting at Kenya’s request, issued an arrest notice for 29-year-old fugitive Samantha Lewthwaite — not in connection with the mall attack, but over a 2011 plot to bomb holiday resorts in Kenya.
If Lewthwaite indeed embraced the jihadi cause, it would mark a chilling turnaround for the apparently grieving widow who originally condemned the London transit bombings and criticized her late husband, Jermaine Lindsay, for taking part.
Officials have not made public any evidence linking her to the mall attack. The Interpol notice did not mention it. And al-Shabab, the Somali Islamic extremist group behind the takeover, denied any female fighters participated.
Nevertheless, the timing of the Interpol notice so soon after the attack fueled speculation she was involved in some way — suspicions that were stoked earlier in the week by comments from Kenya’s foreign minister that a British woman had a role in the bloodbath.
Interpol said this is the first time it has been asked to issue a “red notice” for Lewthwaite. The wanted-person alert said she is wanted on charges of possessing explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony in December 2011.
“Kenyan authorities have ensured that all 190 member countries are aware of the danger posed by this woman, not just across the region but also worldwide,” Interpol said in a news release.
Valentina Soria, a security analyst and al-Shabab expert with IHS Janes, noted that Lewthwaite’s name has popped up after nearly every terror episode in East Africa over the past two years. She said Lewthwaite has long been an object of fascination as a white woman alleged to be working for al-Shabab.