Who is Samantha Lewthwaite? Ten facts about the White Widow
Samantha Lewthwaite, also known as the White Widow, is suspected of taking part in the terrorist attack on a mall in Kenya that claimed at least 61 lives. The white British woman who converted to Islam was married to one of the U.K.’s notorious 7/7 bombers, Jermaine Lindsay, and is thought to be hiding out in Kenya.
Witnesses said one of the terrorists behind the Westgate Mall siege in Nairobi was a white woman who spoke English, and Kenyan foreign minister Amina Mohamed fueled speculations when she told PBS NewsHour, “I think so far I have heard of one Brit … a woman … and I think she has done this many times before.”
Here are 10 facts about the possible suspect:1. Lewthwaite hails from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire: Lewthwaite’s father was an English soldier and her mother was a Catholic, Northern Irish woman. Her parents separated in 1995, and Lewthwaite found solace in spending time with a local Muslim family. They helped her convert to Islam when she was 15.
2. She was married to one of the 7/7 bombers: Lewthwaite met her husband, Jermaine Lindsay, in an Islamic Internet chatroom, according to the Daily Mail. The two married a few months later, reports the BBC. They had two children, and Lewthwaite reportedly had one or two more children afterward. Lindsay was one of the bombers responsible for London’s infamous 7/7 attacks in 2002. He killed himself and 26 other people.
3. Lewthwaite initially condemned her husband’s actions: After the 7/7 attacks, Lewthwaite denied any involvement or knowledge of her husband’s suicide bomb plan and condemned the act. She said the mosques had “poisoned” his mind, according to he BBC. Not long after, she vanished.
4. In 2009, Lewthwaite disappeared: Lewthwaite and her children disappeared but were seen again two years later in Kenya. Lewthwaite used a fake South African passport to travel.
5. She is wanted in Kenya: Lewthwaite is already wanted in Kenya for an alleged terror plot to kill hundreds of British tourists in Mombasa, reports the Mirror. Her accomplice, Jermaine Grant, is on trial in Mombasa.
6. She may be a key al Qaeda figure: The Daily Mail reports that Lewthwaite has helped train all-female suicide attackers in Somalia and that she is an official spokeswoman for al Shabaab, Somalia’s division of al-Qaeda.
7. Her 85-year-old grandmother is in the hospital: Elizabeth Allen from Banbridge, Co Down, was so shocked by all of the news surrounding Lewthwaite that she was admitted to the hospital.
8. She had an unremarkable childhood: Other than her parents’ divorce, Lewthwaite’s neighbors described her as ordinary and kind, but lacking in self-confidence. Some reports say she was very distressed by her parents’ divorce. A family friend, Councillor Raj Khan of Aylesbury, called her a “lovely young girl” in the above video by the Telegraph and said he’d be shocked if she was involved in the attack.
9. Reports on her involvement contradict each other: Some reports say Kenyan government officials denied any of the shooters were women, while foreign minister Amina Mohamed believed a woman was involved. Similarly, one Twitter account supposedly run by al-Shabaab tweeted that no women participated in the killings, while another praised the White Widow for her involvement.
10. She has cut herself off from her family: The BBC reports that Lewthwaite no longer speaks with her siblings or relatives after fleeing the U.K.