A global hunt for Samantha Lewthwaite was under way last night after Interpol issued an international “red notice” for her arrest, describing the terrorist suspect as a “worldwide danger”.
The alert came amid speculation that Lewthwaite, the British widow of the July 7 bomber Germaine Lindsay, was linked to the attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre in which 67 people, including five Britons, were killed.
Requested by the Kenyan authorities, it calls on Interpol’s 190 member countries to watch for the 29-year-old soldier’s daughter from Aylesbury and apprehend her on sight. The notice could have been prompted by fears the mother of three had gone on the run.
“By requesting the red notice, Kenya has activated a global ‘tripwire’ for this fugitive,” said Ronald Noble, Interpol’s secretary-general.
“Through the Interpol red notice, Kenyan authorities have ensured that all member countries are aware of the danger posed by this woman, not just across the region but also worldwide.”
Interpol issued four colour photographs of Lewthwaite along with the arrest notice. One shows her with long dark hair and pouting at the camera, while the other three show her wearing the Islamic headscarf in various poses.
Neither the Kenyan or British authorities have been able to rule out involvement in the Nairobi attack by Lewthwaite, who converted to Islam aged 15
Survivors who fled the siege by Islamist gunmen in its first hours reported seeing a “pale-skinned woman” among the 10 to 15 attackers who held the mall for four days from last Saturday.
A Kenyan arrest warrant had already been issued for Lewthwaite, known as the White Widow, for charges of possessing explosives and planning bombings in tourist spots in 2011.
She is believed to have fled to Somalia where she is said to be with al-Shabaab, the extremist group that claimed responsibility for the Westgate attack.
The shopping centre remained cordoned off yesterday as Kenyan troops continued to sweep its four floors for explosive devices set by the terrorists.
There were a series of what police called “controlled detonations” throughout the day, with black smoke still
billowing from the shattered building. The final count of people who died in the siege will not be known for at least a week, according to one Western source in Nairobi with close knowledge of the investigations.
Kenyan security forces, with the assistance of Metropolitan Police forensics and bomb disposal experts, have made only a third of the mall safe, and were sweeping another third for explosives devices yesterday. The rest of the four-storey complex had collapsed and now resembled “an earthquake aftermath” inside, the source said.
“It is going to take some time, at least a week, before we can definitively say how many attackers there were, how many civilians died, and for forensics teams to be able to say with confidence what happened,” he said.
According to other sources, several gunmen were killed, several were thought to be in the collapsed part of the structure and another five or so were unaccounted for.
Channel 4 News reported that the suspected leader of the attack was a Kenyan national born to a Christian family who had later converted to Islam.
Citing multiple sources within Somalia and connected to al-Shabaab, it reported that the terrorist, who is believed to have been killed in the siege, was said to have served in the Kenyan special forces before leaving for Somalia and taking the jihadi fighting name of Omar or Umayr.
Lewthwaite is believed to use different identities. (REUTERS)
Separately, a row erupted between Kenya’s defence and police forces and its National Intelligence Service, after claims that agents had warned of the attacks but that their superiors had “suppressed” the reports.
It was reported that a pregnant policewoman had recorded a police statement after her brother, who worked for the NIS, warned her not to visit Westgate last Saturday. The officer is being sought for interrogation.
Accounts of the horror inside the mall continued to emerge. Fred Bosire, a supermarket worker, described how he was shot in the leg as he cowered behind a meat counter and watched several other people being executed.
At one point, the gunmen paused to drink bottles of pop.
“Before long they started to call out for survivors, ‘if you’re still alive, we’ll let you go’, they said,” Mr Bosire said.
“I heard some ladies call out. I wish they hadn’t. I wish they’d held on because I heard them get shot in cold blood.”
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