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Kenya mall attack: 'White Widow' Samantha Lewthwaite sought as probe continues

Posted by Oped 308 days ago Toronto Star| kenya mall attack white widow samantha lewthwaite sought probe continues All
http://www.thestar.com — Samantha Lewthwaite, dubbed the “White Widow” by Britain’s media, is the daughter of a British soldier, wife of a 7/7 suicide bomber, the subject of much speculation since the deadly attack at Westgate mall in Nairobi and now sought by Interpol. But whether she played a role in the worst attack to hit Kenya since the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi is still uncertain. Reports of the 29-year-old’s potential involvement began circulating just hours after a team of well-armed fighters entered the mall Saturday. Al Shabab, Al Qaeda’s Somalia-based group, claimed responsibility for the assault and some witnesses reported seeing a white woman among the group. Speculation on her involvement was fuelled Monday by Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed, who told PBS NewsHour that a British woman was among the attackers. “She has, I think, done this many times before,” Mohamed said.But Interpol’s “red notice” Thursday on Lewthwaite, issued at the behest of Kenyan authorities, is for a charge of possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit felony in an unrelated 2011 event. And western intelligence officials remain skeptical of her involvement in the Westgate assault. The Shabab has denied the presence of women in statements the group released on Twitter. With rubble from a collapsed floor covering the bodies of some of the attackers and victims in the mall, the identities of those involved remain unclear. Female Al Qaeda fighters are extremely rare, but there are women loyal to the Shabab who hold high-level positions within the organization as recruiters or to help with logistics.One powerful figure is a Somalia-born Canadian woman, Fadumo Jama, who is known among the jihadis and among authorities who have tracked her for years as “Mama Shabab.” The Star revealed her role within the organization last year, using reports from intelligence sources in Somalia and Canada and the accounts of former Shabab members.The elusive Jama left Toronto years ago and operated a safe house for western fighters in southern Somalia. She was last tracked to a home in the Somali town of Merca, sources say. She is a well-known figure to intelligence agencies in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Somalia, though her name does not appear in any public documents and she has not been charged. Sources told the Star that Jama is closely aligned with a British woman — although there is no indication that this is Lewthwaite.Lewthwaite’s own story began sympathetically when she was portrayed as the distraught pregnant widow of Germaine Lindsay, who killed 26 people when he blew up a train in London’s Underground on July 7, 2005.The Muslim convert condemned her husband’s crime and blamed the influence of radical mosques. “How these people could have turned him and poisoned his mind is dreadful,” she told Britain’s Sun newspaper eight years ago. “He was an innocent, naive and simple man. I suppose he must have been an ideal candidate.” Then she disappeared. In December 2011, Kenyan authorities raided three Mombasa homes and reportedly found bomb-making material similar to that used in the London attacks in a home allegedly used by Lewthwaite.She was not there, but she was charged in absentia with her alleged British accomplice, Jermaine Grant, for plotting to bomb hotels frequented by western tourists.Lewthwaite’s story has captivated Britain’s media. The headline in Thursday’s Mail Online read: “Sexy lingerie found at home of ‘White Widow,’ on a story about Grant’s trial and what investigators uncovered in Lewthwaite’s villa.The Shabab has successfully lured western recruits into its organization, most famously the American Omar Hammami, who was killed earlier this month by the group’s hardline leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane. In April, Canadian Mahad Dhore, a former York University student from Markham, led a deadly and well-organized assault on Mogadishu’s Supreme Court, authorities believe.The Nairobi attack marks the second time the Shabab has struck outside of Somalia. In 2010, they targeted Uganda in an attack that killed 70. A cache of intelligence found alongside the slain body of Al Qaeda’s former East African leader, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, and obtained exclusively by the Star, shows the group’s international ambitions.One document details plans to attack elite U.K. targets such as hotels and private schools.“As you can see we are planning to kill quality and quantity not your average pig who is not valued by his own mother let alone the British government,” the document states, adding that recruits will be trained to use mobile phones in London without being intercepted. “We need an individual who can return to the UK undetected.” Another training objective states: ‘Personal security will cover how to dress, act and travel around London without being picked up on (British intelligence service) MI5 radar.”
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