The attack by jihadists on a mall in Kenya has stunned the world. The official death toll stands at 67, but reports suggest that the casualty list could reach hundreds. With such losses and amid allegations that the organiser was a western woman by the name of Samantha Lewthwaite, who has been dubbed the “White Widow,” we look at the past, as well as the background of this convert to jihad.
Bainbridge, Northern Ireland, is known as the birth place of the famous hymn writer Joseph M. Scriven, who penned, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and the polar explorer, Francis Crozier. His monument stands surrounded with polar bears, in the centre of the comfortable market town. It is also famous for being the ancestral home of Jane Austin. What the town is known for will change forever after the sickening scenes in Kenya and it centres around the daughter of a British solider and a local woman.
Samatha Lewthwaite’s father was a serving British solider, in the prestigious regiment, 9th/12th Royal Lancers and her mother was a local woman, Elizabeth Christine (née Allen) Lewthwaite, who came from a Roman Catholic background, this relationship defied convention in Northern Ireland at the time. Both met while he was serving, in what is known as, the Northern Ireland Troubles. Samantha was born at a time when the violence that engulfed Northern Ireland was still raging – 1983. The family would eventually move to England and around 1994 her mother and father would split. This is rumoured to have had a deep impact on the young Samantha.
As a consequence of the trauma Lewthwaite is said to have suffered at the family brake up, she is believed to have “sought solace from Muslim neighbours who she believed had a stronger family network.” she is thought to have first become interested in the teachings of Islam while being taught Religious instruction at school. By the time she had reached 17 she had converted to Islam. She would also enrolled to study at the School of Oriental and African Studies in Russell Square, London.
It was while studying there that she met her future husband, and suicide bomber, Germaine Maurice Lindsay. The initial contact, between the pair, took place over social network sites; they later went to a Stop the War march at London’s Hyde Park as a date. They would eventually marry in Aylesbury in 2002, although it was not conducted with state approval, so it had no legal status. They took the Islamic names Asmantara and Jamal. Lewthwaite’s conversion ostracised her further from her family who are said “never came to terms with their daughter’s conversion” and did not attend their daughter’s wedding.
Within three years of her marriage to Lindsey he was to take part in the suicide attacks on London, what is generally called 7/7. He boarded the King’s Cross Underground and as part of a coordinated attack, detonated an IED which he had in a backpack. His bomb killed 26 commuters as they made their way to work on the busy train; he also died in the blast.
Six days after the bombing Lewthwaite reported Lindsay missing, claiming she had no knowledge of his whereabouts or of his subsequent plans. She was eight months into a pregnancy with her second child during these events and used the helpline setup for those bereaved in the attacks to report his disappearance.
The police placed her in protective custody due to the nature of her husband’s crime and the tension it had caused in the community. At the inquest it was revealed that Lewthwaite had been an associate of organiser of the attacks, Mohammad Sidique Khan.
Just two months after the attacks took place, Lewthwaite sold her story to local tabloids, portraying herself as a victim. She would also state during the interview that her husband was a new convert to Islam, and that he had been “tricked into his actions by extremists”, something which others disputed. She received thirty thousand British pounds for the interview.
In 2009 she is said to have married once more, this time to Habib Saleh Ghani, who had connections to the Middle East and Africa. Lewthwaite gave birth to a third child and is believed to have left the United Kingdom for Africa.
She next appears in February 2012, when police in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, issue a warrant for the arrest of a caucasian female, by the name Natalie Faye Webb. This is a fake identity and a forged South African passport has been used by the same individual who, Scotland Yard says, is Samantha Lewthwaite. The woman is wanted for planning attacks and structuring terrorist cells in Kenya.
Lewthwaite is believed to travel with all three of her children. Both this and her connections to Al-Shabaab led her father to make his only public statement about his daughter’s activities. Stating He was shocked and upset at what his daughter was alleged to be involved in and saying he and the rest of the family had had no contact with her.
By March 2012, the CIA had joined the hunt for Lewthwaite as she just evaded capture at an apartment in Mombasa. It is thought that she and others were targeting Mombasa’s exclusive Serena Beach Hotel and Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort. In the apartment were found some smashed computers and AK47 ammunition, all with fingerprints identified as Lewthwaits. Kenyan police would give a statement on the findings that would give her a lasting name, which would add to her infamy, the “White Widow.”
The White Widow would later be said to have organised and took part in a grenade attack during the Euro 2013 soccer tournament against English tourists who were watching the game between England and Italy, in Mombasa.
The Westgate Mall was a target, no doubt, because of the many westerns who shopped there and also the number of Israeli owned business sited there. Israeli Special Forces were reported to have acted in an advisory role, on the ground, as the crisis unfolded. A western woman is reported, by witness, as carrying an assault rifle and giving commands in Arabic; this woman is believed to be Samantha Lewthwaite.
Samantha Lewthwaits’ aging grandmother had to be hospitalised due to the shock once she was made aware of her granddaughter’s alleged role in the massacre.
Interpol has issued a worldwide arrest warrant for Samantha Lewthwaite and her various aliases.
The fact the jihadist theatre is moving and fluid must be of great concern. The fact that an Irish mother of three who converted to Islam is one of the main suspects in such a horrific attack is almost beyond comprehension. Some are suggesting that Samantha Lewthwaite was killed in the attacks, but this is unconfirmed.
By Clifford Peeples.