Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Kenya terror: Is white widow Samantha Lewthwaite dead or alive?

Ulster woman 'mastermind of horror at Nairobi mall'

Heavy smoke rises from the Westgate Mall in Nairobi Kenya Monday Sept. 23 2013. Multiple large blasts have rocked the mall where a hostage siege is in its third day. Associated Press reporters on the scene heard multiple blasts and a barrage of gunfire. Security forces have been attempting to rescue an unknown number of hostages inside the mall held by al-Qaida-linked terrorists. (AP Photo/ Jerome Delay)
Heavy smoke rises from the Westgate Mall in Nairobi Kenya Monday Sept. 23 2013
Kenya security personnel take cover outside the Westgate Mall after shooting started inside the mall early Monday morning, Sept. 23, 2013
Kenyan security personnel and journalists duck behind a vehicle as heavy gunfire erupts from the Westgate Mall in Nairobi Kenya Monday Sept. 23 2013
An armored personnel carrier drives through the car park towards the main entrance of the Westgate Mall as large explosions and heavy gunfire are heard in Nairobi, Kenya Monday, Sept. 23, 2013
A helicopte and birds fly above as a plume of black smoke billows rising over the Westgate Mall, following large explosions and heavy gunfire, in Nairobi, Kenya Monday, Sept. 23, 2013
Kenyan police officers dive for cover as large explosions and heavy gunfire are heard from the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Monday, Sept. 23, 2013
Local and foreign television crews line up behind a police cordon at the end of a street leading to the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. Hostages being held by al-Qaida-linked terrorists in a Nairobi mall have not been released despite an earlier statement from the military that "most" had been rescued, a person connected to the situation told The Associated Press on Monday. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Samantha Lewthwaite with Jermaine Lindsay
'White Widow': Lewthwaite and another al-Qaida suspect in the photo taken at the Kenyan border
Samantha Lewthwaite
Armed police from the General Service Unit take cover behind a wall during a bout of gunfire, outside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. Hostages being held by al-Qaida-linked terrorists in a Nairobi mall have not been released despite an earlier statement from the military that "most" had been rescued, a person connected to the situation told The Associated Press on Monday. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Paramedics run outside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi after heavy shooting started Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. Kenya's military launched a major operation at the upscale Nairobi mall and said it had rescued "most" of the hostages being held captive by al-Qaida-linked militants during the standoff. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)
Kenya security personnel ask journalists to clear the area and not to take pictures outside the Westgate Mall after firing started inside the mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. Kenya's military launched a major operation at the upscale Nairobi mall and said it had rescued "most" of the hostages being held captive by al-Qaida-linked militants during the standoff that killed at least 68 people and injured 175. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)
Kenya security forces are seen behind a wall outside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Monday morning, Sept. 23, 2013. Kenya's military launched a major operation at the upscale Nairobi mall and said it had rescued "most" of the hostages being held captive by al-Qaida-linked militants during the standoff that killed at least 68 people and injured 175. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Kenya Securiy personnel take cover outside the Westgate Mall after firing started inside the mall, Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. Kenya's military launched a major operation at the upscale Nairobi mall and said it had rescued "most" of the hostages being held captive by al-Qaida-linked militants during the standoff that killed at least 68 people and injured 175. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)
Armed police leave after entering the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. Gunmen threw grenades and opened fire Saturday in an attack targeting non-Muslims at an upscale mall in Kenya's capital thatwas hosting a children's day event, a Red Cross official and witnesses said. Photo by Jonathan Kalan
A body, left, lies outside the Westgate Mall, an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday amid an ongoing terror attack
A security officer helps a wounded woman outside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, after gunmen threw grenades and opened fire during an attack that left multiple dead and dozens wounded.
Security officers help a wounded woman outside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, after gunmen threw grenades and opened fire during an attack that left multiple dead and dozens wounded. A witness to the attacks on the upscale shopping mall says that gunmen told Muslims to stand up and leave and that non-Muslims would be targeted. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
A body is carried by medical personnel outside the Westgate Mall, an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday Sept. 21 2013, where shooting erupted when armed men attempted to rob a shop, according to police. Witnesses say a half dozen grenades also went off along with volleys of gunfire in and around the mall. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)
A body, left, lies outside the Westgate Mall, an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday Sept. 21 2013, where shooting erupted when armed men attempted to rob a shop, according to police. Witnesses say a half dozen grenades also went off along with volleys of gunfire in and around the mall. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)
A woman's body is removed from the car by the Kenya Red Cross outside the Westgate Mall,an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday Sept. 21 2013, where shooting erupted when armed men attempted to rob a shop, according to police. Witnesses say a half dozen grenades also went off along with volleys of gunfire in and around the mall. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)
Bodies lie outside an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday Sept. 21 2013, where shooting erupted when armed men attempted to rob a shop, according to police. Witnesses say a half dozen grenades also went off along with volleys of gunfire in and around the mall. (AP Photo/ Jason Straziuso)
An injured man is trreated outside an upscale shopping mall, seen background, in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday Sept. 21 2013, where shooting erupted when armed men attempted to rob a shop, according to police. Witnesses say a half dozen grenades also went off along with lobbies of gunfire that started at midday. (AP Photo/ Jason Straziuso)
A soldier moves to take up a position outside an upscale shopping mall, seen background, in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday Sept. 21 2013, where shooting erupted when armed men attempted to rob a shop, according to police. Witnesses say a half dozen grenades also went off along with lobbies of gunfire that started at midday. (AP Photo/ Jason Straziuso)
Trucks of soldiers from the Kenya Defense Forces arrive after dawn outside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. Islamic extremist gunmen lobbed grenades and fired assault rifles inside Nairobi's top mall Saturday, killing dozens and wounding over a hundred in the attack. Early Sunday morning, 12 hours after the attack began, gunmen remained holed up inside the mall with an unknown number of hostages. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Kenya security personnel move to take their positions outside a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. Kenya authorities said Islamic extremist attackers remain inside the upscale Kenyan shopping mall, holding an unknown number of hostages, after killing at least 39 and injuring 150 in the Saturday's attack. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)
An armed police officer takes cover during a bout of gunfire outside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. Gunmen threw grenades and opened fire Saturday killing at least 22 people in an attack targeting non-Muslims at an upscale mall in Kenya's capital that was hosting a children's day event, a Red Cross official and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Groups of onlookers gather on a road looking down over the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. Multiple barrages of gunfire erupted Sunday morning from the upscale Kenyan mall where there is a hostage standoff with Islamic extremists nearly 24 hours after they attacked using grenades and assault rifles. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Kenya Defense forces personnel take their positions outside a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. Kenya authorities said Islamic extremist attackers remain inside the upscale Kenyan shopping mall, holding an unknown number of hostages, after killing at least 39 and injuring 150 during the Saturday's attack. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)
Kenya security personnel walk to their positions outside a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. Kenya authorities said Islamic extremist attackers remain inside the upscale Kenyan shopping mall, holding an unknown number of hostages, after killing at least 39 and injuring 150 during the Saturday's attack. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)
Kenya security personnel move to their positions as others stand guard outside a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. Kenya authorities said Islamic extremist attackers remain inside the upscale Kenyan shopping mall, holding an unknown number of hostages, after killing at least 39 and injuring 150 during the Saturday's attack. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)
Trucks of soldiers from the Kenya Defense Forces arrive after dawn outside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013.
Civilians who had been hiding during the gun battle hold their hands in the air as a precautionary measure before being searched by armed police leading them to safety, inside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. Gunmen threw grenades and opened fire Saturday, killing at least 22 people in an attack targeting non-Muslims at an upscale mall in Kenya's capital that was hosting a children's day event, a Red Cross official and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Jonathan Kalan)
A body is seen on the floor, below right, as smoke fills the air inside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. Gunmen threw grenades and opened fire Saturday, killing at least 22 people in an attack targeting non-Muslims at an upscale mall in Kenya's capital that was hosting a children's day event, a Red Cross official and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Jonathan Kalan)
Armed police take cover behind escalators as smoke fills the air inside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. Gunmen threw grenades and opened fire Saturday, killing at least 22 people in an attack targeting non-Muslims at an upscale mall in Kenya's capital that was hosting a children's day event, a Red Cross official and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Jonathan Kalan)
Civilians who had been hiding inside during gunbattles manage to flee from the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. Gunmen threw grenades and opened fire Saturday killing at least 22 people in an attack targeting non-Muslims at an upscale mall in Kenya's capital that was hosting a children's day event, a Red Cross official and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Jonathan Kalan)
Civilians who had been hiding inside during the gun battle manage to flee from the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. Gunmen threw grenades and opened fire Saturday, killing at least 22 people in an attack targeting non-Muslims at an upscale mall in Kenya's capital that was hosting a children's day event, a Red Cross official and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Jonathan Kalan)
An armed police officer takes cover during a bout of gunfire outside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. Gunmen threw grenades and opened fire Saturday killing at least 22 people in an attack targeting non-Muslims at an upscale mall in Kenya's capital that was hosting a children's day event, a Red Cross official and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
A rescue worker helps a child outside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, after gunmen threw grenades and opened fire during an attack that left multiple dead and dozens wounded. A witness to the attacks on the upscale shopping mall says that gunmen told Muslims to stand up and leave and that non-Muslims would be targeted. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
The mother and a security guard help a child outside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Sept. 21 2013, after gunmen threw grenades and opened fire during an attack that left multiple dead and dozens wounded. A witness to the attacks on the upscale shopping mall says that gunmen told Muslims to stand up and leave and that non-Muslims would be targeted. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Armed special forces aim their weapons at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, after gunmen threw grenades and opened fire during an attack that left multiple dead and dozens wounded. A witness to the attacks on the upscale shopping mall says that gunmen told Muslims to stand up and leave and that non-Muslims would be targeted. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)

The hunt for the Banbridge woman known as the White Widow is being intensified by security services around the world following the Kenyan shopping mall massacre.

Samantha Lewthwaite, who was born and spent some of her childhood in the Co Down town, is believed to be the mastermind behind the atrocity that claimed the lives of at least 62 people.

She is also held responsible for previous outrages as one of the most fanatical leaders of the murderous al-Shabaab terror group.

Security sources said the body of a white woman dressed in Muslim clothing was found in the mall, but a police chief said it was not Lewthwaite as all the attackers were men.

Witnesses who fled the bloodbath said a white woman appeared to be in command of the group of terrorists who gunned down dozens of people in the Westgate Mall and held others hostage for three days. They said she had shouted orders in Arabic to the rest of the gunmen.

She has attained near-mythical status among Islamist terrorists as she has managed to evade capture and allegedly organise attacks in east Africa.

Lewthwaite is being hunted by the SAS in Africa and the Kenyan forces are believed to be authorised to shoot her on sight.

Twitter claims from the al Shabaab terror group claimed that Lewthwaite masterminded the attack and was in the centre during the massacre.

Last night it claimed it was not her and she was alive and "safe".

Police and soldiers were still clearing the complex last night with some of the remaining attackers believed to be in hiding in the shopping mall.

Lewthwaite was born and spent some of her childhood in Banbridge, before moving to England.

Her father was a soldier sent here during the Troubles who married a local woman.

She converted to Islam as a teenager and married Jermaine Lindsay, one of the 7/7 bombers.

She then married another jihadist while on the run in Africa where she allegedly became leader of the al-Shabaab terror grouping.

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Ruthless Lewthwaite later allegedly arranged the assassination of a terror rival in an attack that also claimed the life of her second husband, Habib Ghani.

She did not even acknowledge the fact he had died.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman told the Belfast Telegraph last night it was too early to speculate whether Lewthwaite was involved in the massacre and was dead.

Earlier a spokesman for the Foreign Office had said: "We are aware of the reports and we are looking into them.

"It is really difficult to substantiate. We are looking at the names and seeing what we can find out."

Six British citizens died in the attack, with some of the gunmen also believed to be radicalised Muslims from Britain.

Almost 200 people were also wounded in the attack and Kenyan authorities say they fear the death toll will rise.

Family friends in Banbridge yesterday said the publicity surrounding Lewthwaite in recent years had deeply affected her grandmother who lives near the town centre.

Elizabeth Allen is said to be devastated by the revelations regarding her granddaughter.

It is understood the stress on Ms Allen, who is in her late 80s, is such she was hospitalised.

The frail pensioner previously told how she was issued with a panic alarm with which she was to contact police if Lewthwaite ever made contact with her.

"I've been told by Special Branch to contact them immediately if anything happens. I've just got to beep this here," she said previously, pointing to the alarm on string around her neck.

A family friend said she was unaware of any other relatives of Lewthwaite's in Northern Ireland.

Her mother Christine is believed to have moved to England.

Ulster Unionist councillor Joan Baird knows the family personally. She said they had been distraught by the allegations surrounding Lewthwaite.

"It's distressing for all the family and very distressing for the people of Banbridge," she said.

"She came from a very good family and they have suffered enough as a result of all this."

Last year, Lewthwaite's father said he could not believe his daughter was linked to terrorist activities.

"I cannot believe she would be involved in something like this and be there with the children," said Andrew Lewthwaite.

"We have not had any contact with her for some time. I haven't spoken to her for a long time."

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