At the request of Kenyan authorities, INTERPOL has issued a global alert for Samantha Lewthwaite, the infamous 'White Widow,' who may be connected to the Westgate mall attack. An INTERPOL "Red Notice" is described as a "global tripwire" that countries use in the hunt for international fugitives. Identifying details and description of any legal charges against the suspect are forwarded to all 190 member countries in the hope that local police will spot the fugitive and arrest her... and fast.
Lewthwaite is actually a citizen of the United Kingdom, but has been wrapped up in international terrorism cases since her husband, Jermaine Lindsay, blew himself up in the July 7, 2005, terror attacks on London's transit system. Two years later, she cut ties with her British family and moved to Kenya, where she reportedly became connected to local terrorist networks, including al-Shabab. It's not known if her husband's death led to her radicalization or if she was in on his activities from the beginning, but she always denied any knowledge of the 2005 plot and was given protection by British police at the time.
According to various media reports, she remarried and had another child, but in 2011, her home was raided by police who found weapons and explosives. An accomplice claimed they were planning to carry out bomb attacks in Kenya, and that Lewthwaite hoped to train her own children to become suicide bombers. She's been on the run ever since, but Kenyan authorities say she was involved in several bombings and shootings in the country since 2012, including a grenade attack on a bar filled with soccer fans watching 2012 European Championships. She also described as more than a soldier, but one of the East Africa's most active terrorist planners and recruiters.
Despite being wanted in Kenya, she was most off the radar internationally until last weekend's terrorist attack in Nairobi, which came with numerous witness reports that a white woman was among the attackers. Since she's still being sought, it seems Lewthwaite was not among the militants who were killed or captured by police, and it's not clear what role they believe she might have played — an assailant, a planner, or both. In fact, the INTERPOL notice doesn't even mention the Westgate attack, but the decision to elevate her case to a worldwide can't be a coincidence.
Wherever she is, Kenyan officials believe that she must be connected in someway to the worst terrorist attack in their country since the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings. If she can't be found, they may never get their answers.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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