The Irish widow of one of the bombers who attacked London’s subway system in 2005, who at the time called her husband’s actions “horrific,” is suspected of leading the Westgate Mall massacre in Nairobi, Kenya.
The massacre and subsequent hostage siege that began Sept. 21 had claimed the lives of 62 people as of three days later, when Kenyan military forces stormed the mall.
Samantha Lewthwaite, widow of suicide bomber Germaine Lindsay, is a prime suspect in the Nairobi attack. Witnesses reported seeing a white woman shouting orders to gunmen during the massacre and authorities believe the woman to be the so-called “White Widow,” a 29-year-old native of Banbridge, Ireland.
Al-Shabaab, a Somalia-based terrorist group with links to al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the attack. On the group’s Twitter feed, Al-Shabaab announced that Lewthwaite (pictured) was a member of the group and called her “a brave lady.”
Kenyan officials confirmed that a white woman was one of the attackers. While not ruling out that the woman was Lewthwaite, Kenyan authorities did not officially confirm her identity either.
However, As Kenyan forces prepared to move against the attackers holding hostages inside the mall, a Kenyan police source told the U.K.’s Daily Mirror newspaper, “Samantha Lewthwaite is target number one.”
Surveillance images from inside the mall also showed a white woman wearing a balaclava -- a head covering -- and brandishing a gun.
At least three British citizens are believed to be among the fatalities in the attack.
Lewthwaite, a convert to Islam and daughter of a British soldier, was arrested in 2011 for allegedly plotting to massacre British tourists in Mombasa, Kenya’s second-largest city. While an accomplice in that attack still faces trial, Lewthwaite escaped custody.
She was also suspected of taking part in a grenade attack on a popular Mombasa nightspot in 2011. The attack killed three people including a three-year-old boy in a nearby house that was struck by an errant grenade.
SOURCES: Daily Mirror, Irish Central, The Independent - Ireland, CNN