‘White widow’ Samantha Lewthwaite may have been killed during the Nairobi siege.
As attempts to flush the remaining militants out of a Kenyan shopping centre continued, officials said three Islamist extremists had died during attempts to free their hostages.
Insiders said one was a white woman – adding weight to the theory that Lewthwaite, the fugitive widow of 7/7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay, was behind the attack that has left 62 dead and 170 injured.
Police will also investigate the possibility that she is a hostage dressed in one of the terrorist’s clothes. Asked if it was Lewthwaite, dubbed the ‘White Widow’, an intelligence officer said: ‘We don’t know’
WHO IS SAMANTHA LEWTHWAITE, THE ‘WHITE WIDOW’
Samantha Lewthwaite converted to Islam as a young woman and married a man who went on to be a 7/7 London suicide bomber. She has become a key figure in the terror group behind this weekend’s attack.
Lewthwaite has even been involved in training a group of all-female suicide attackers at camps in lawless neighbouring the 29-year-old, who grew up as a normal teenager in Aylesbury before meeting Jermaine Lindsay, a British Muslim, in an online chat room when she was 17. The pair married three years later.
When her husband was named as one of four suicide bombers who blew up Tube trains and a bus in 2005, killing 52 people, Lewthwaite initially condemned her late husband’s attack and denied any knowledge of his plan. This was a lie.
More than eight years later, Lewthwaite is one of Al Qaeda’s main recruiters in East Africa and is an official spokesman for Al Shabaab (The People), the terrorist group behind the horror in Nairobi.
The so-called ‘White Widow’, who is the world’s most wanted woman, has been on the run in East Africa after police foiled a Christmas bomb plot against Western tourists in the coastal resort of Mombasa in 2011.
Police believe she is the one of the group’s main financiers and bomb-making tutors. However, sources admit they still do not know the full extent of her involvement in the attack in Nairobi.
Nevertheless, a senior Kenyan anti-terror officer yesterday claimed: ‘We believe she was commanding the operation but her fate is not yet known. It is understood she was a sniper also.’
The Mail revealed yesterday that soldiers say they saw a white woman in a veil shouting orders to gunmen in Arabic, while a Twitter account purporting to represent Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the atrocity and praised Lewthwaite, from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, as ‘a brave lady’.
Despite this, Kenya’s interior minister Joseph Ole Lenku said that all of the terrorists were men, with some dressed as women. Lewthwaite has been on the run in East Africa since police foiled her plot to blow up a shopping centre in another Kenyan city, Mombasa, two years go.
Her London-born accomplice, Jermaine Grant, was due to stand trial yesterday, but his hearing was delayed so that terror officers preparing to give evidence could instead be diverted to Nairobi, to assist officials there.