Hunt goes on for the Banbridge woman suspected of African bombing campaign
The hunt is continuing for a Northern Ireland mother at the centre of a suspected Islamic bombing campaign in east Africa.
Samantha Lewthwaite, who was married to one of the 7/7 London bombers, is suspected of being part of a cell affiliated to al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida-linked group in Somalia.
The group planned to mount a series of attacks on the Kenyan coastal resort of Mombasa last Christmas.
Lewthwaite (28), who is on the run with her three children and possibly another British national, is at the centre of an international hunt involving Scotland Yard, the CIA and the Kenyan authorities.
Lewthwaite converted to Islam at the age of 17, following the traumatic divorce of her parents.
Her mother, Christine Allen, met her father, Andy Lewthwaite, while he was serving as a British soldier in Northern Ireland during the 1970s. As a child, Samantha lived in Banbridge for two years, with her parents and three older siblings, attending a local primary school.
Kenyan authorities describe Samantha as a serious player who allegedly worked as a financier.
She is suspected of handing out cash to al-Shabaab fighters at a safe house in Kisauni in Kenya.
Shortly after the 7/7 bombings, Lewthwaite said she was horrified by the massacre — in which her first husband, Londoner Jermaine Lindsay, detonated the bomb at King’s Cross tube station in 2005, killing 26 people.
Police believe she may have travelled to Kenya in February last year, entering the country using a forged passport with the identity of Natalie Faye Webb.
When she arrived in Mombasa in November, it is understood that one of her first ports of call was with Nassim Salim.
Salim is the former wife of Mohammed Sadiq Odeh — an architect of the 1998 US Embassy bombings in east Africa which put al-Qaida on the global map, killing more than 200 people.
Police believe the former Co Down woman may have escaped by sea to neighbouring Tanzania after she was tipped off about the police raid last December.
Lewthwaite’s maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Allen, who is still believed to live near Banbridge, now wears a panic alarm so she can alert police if Samantha reappears in her native Northern Ireland. Pointing to the alarm around her neck, Mrs Allen said: “I’ve been told by Special Branch to contact them immediately if anything happens.
“I’ve just got to beep this.”
Samantha’s mother, Christine, — who was with her own mother Elizabeth in Northern Ireland when news of her daughter’s manhunt broke — said she was “obviously shocked”.
Both of Lewthwaite’s parents suggested that they have had no recent contact with their daughter.
Andy Lewthwaite, now based in England, said that he could not believe his daughter would be involved in an international bomb plot.