Northern Ireland widow of 7/7 bomber is accused of jailbreak plot
Published 16/03/2013 | 00:00
A female terror suspect who spent her childhood in Banbridge was behind an armed mission to break her accomplice out of custody in Kenya, a court has heard.
On-the-run Samantha Lewthwaite, who is the widow of the 7/7 King's Cross bomber Germaine Lindsay, has been accused of masterminding an operation to free her accomplice Jermaine Grant from court custody.
Prosecutors have told Mombasa's magistrate's courts in Kenya that Grant, who is on trial for planning bomb attacks on the country's coast, was working with Lewthwaite.
Dubbed the 'White Widow', Lewthwaite is believed to be on the run in Tanzania or Somalia. The mother-of-three – who spent part of her childhood in the Whyte Acres estate in Banbridge – was married to Germaine Lindsay.
Lindsay detonated a bomb which killed 26 people and himself at London's King's Cross Tube Station in July 2005. Lewthwaite later expressed her horror over the massacre.
But for over a year she has been wanted for questioning over a suspected Islamic bombing campaign in east Africa.
The mother, who is aged in her late twenties, faces two charges – including "conspiracy to improvise an explosive device with the intent to cause harm to innocent civilians" – according to Kenyan prosecutors.
Jermaine Grant, her alleged accomplice, faces the same charges.
This week Jacob Ondari, the deputy public prosecutor, told Mombasa magistrates' courts in Kenya that Grant's case should be moved to a high-security piracy court complex because of a new "security threat".
Mr Ondari added that Grant's co-accused, Fouad Manswab, who is currently at large, was assisting Samantha Lewthwaite in a plot to free Grant from Mombasa's main court, or on his way to the court from jail.
"We know that Fouad is in touch with Samantha Lewthwaite, and they were planning to rescue their accomplice," Mr Ondari told the Press outside court in Mombasa.
One man allegedly linked to the operation was arrested carrying bullet-proof vests and face masks as he entered Kenya from Tanzania. Another man was arrested in Mombasa with a grenade, Mr Ondari told the court.
"Under interrogation, they indicated that they were in Kenya to help with the mission to free Grant," he said.
Grant (30) and Manswab, who is from Kenya, were arrested in December in 2011 in Mombasa. Chemicals discovered in their rental apartment were the same ingredients used by Germaine Lindsay in London's 7/7 bombings.
Both men claimed under police interrogation that they were receiving their direction from Lewthwaite. According to reports, the believed target of the planned bomb campaign were tourist hotels on the Kenyan coastal resort.
Lewthwaite has been on the run since December 2011.
On Wednesday, Grant's lawyer, Chacha Mwita, dismissed prosecution claims that Lewthwaite and Manswab were planning to free him. He said it was something he had only seen in the movies or on American crime drama CSI.
"It's clear the prosecution is trying to puff up their case," he told the court.
The chief police officer of Kenya's coast province, Aggrey Adoli, confirmed a man carrying bullet-proof vests was arrested on the Kenya/Tanzania border.
But he denied the arrest was linked to Grant's trial.
Banbridge schoolgirl who became linked to radical Islam
Samantha Lewthwaite had an inconspicuous childhood.
Born to a Northern Irish mother and soldier father from Britain, she spent her early years in her home in the Whyte Acres estate in Banbridge.
But Samantha's conversion to Islam in her late teens unleashed a series of events which brought together bomb plots in London and Kenya – and has seen the mother of three on the run for the last 13 months.
Samantha's mother, Christine, married British soldier Andy Lewthwaite in the 1970s.
They settled in Christine's native Banbridge, where their daughter, Samantha, spent part of her childhood, and they stayed until the marriage broke down.
Samantha was 17 when she converted to Islam, changing her name to Sherafiyah.
She married Germaine Lindsay, who would later detonate a bomb in London's King's Cross Tube Station killing 26 people and himself, in July 2005.
Lewthwaite condemned the 7/7 bombings, but is now suspected of involvement in a planned bombing campaign in east Africa.
The 29 year-old is suspected of being part of a cell affiliated to al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida-linked group in Somalia, which planned to mount attacks on Kenyan port city Mombasa in December 2011.
In June last year, Kenyan police reported a sighting of a woman matching Lewthwaite's description near Mombasa's Jericho bar, shortly before a grenade attack on June 24.
Three people were killed and 25 injured as crowds watched England play Italy in the Euro 2012 championship.
Lewthwaite is currently thought to be hiding in Tanzania or Somalia, after more than a year on the run with her children.