‘White Widow,’ Canadian man rumoured to be involved in Kenya mall attack
Video: Reports speculate foreigners, including a Canadian, may have been involved in the Nairobi Westgate Attack. Global National’s Jen Tryon reports.
VANCOUVER – A list of alleged foreign jihadis connected to the deadly Nairobi shopping mall attack includes at least one Canadian and a British woman who has become known as the “White Widow.”
But officials in Canada and Kenya are not confirming identities or nationalities of the 10 to 15 gunmen who entered the upscale Westgate Mall on Saturday afternoon, including at least three who were reportedly killed when government forces took back control.
The names appeared in a post attributed to al-Shabab — the Somalia-based militant group that claimed responsibility for the siege.
The post came from a Twitter account that has since been shut down, purporting to be al-Shabab’s press office. Several accounts claiming to belong to al-Shabab have popped up on Twitter since the siege began — all of them have been suspended.
The list of fighters included the name a 24-year-old man from Ontario.
The identity of the man or any possible involvement in the attack, that left 62 people dead, has not been independently confirmed.
Al-Shabab is known to recruit foreign fighters and train them in Somali camps.
Canada’s Dept. of Foreign Affairs acknowledged on Sunday it was aware of the reported involvement of a Canadian, but said it does not comment on “operational matters of national security.”
“Our government will provide its full support to any investigation of a terrorist act that does or may include Canadian citizens,” said Rick Roth, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. “Terrorists, regardless of their citizenship, must be punished for their cowardice and depravity.”
He said the government “has taken strong action to keep Canadians safe from those who wish to harm us, including listing al-Shabaab as a terrorist entity.”
The list included the names of several U.S. and European citizens.
A separate post from the account @HSM_PRESSOFFICE2 also alleged a well-known British woman with terrorist ties was involved in the attack.
“@HSM_PRESOFFICE2: Sherafiyah lewthwaite aka samantha is a vrave (sic) lady! were happier (sic) to have her in our ranks! #westgate #AlShabaab”
An al-Shabab spokesperson has reportedly denied the tweets were from the organization and the “jihadist threat”-monitoring group SITE has also questioned the authenticity of the HSM_PRESSOFFICE2 tweets.
Samantha “Sherafiyah” Lewthwaite is the widow of 2005 London bomber Germaine Lindsay.
The 29-year-old Muslim convert is wanted by Kenyan authorities for her alleged links to al-Shabab and for allegedly taking part in a June 2012 attack on a bar in Mombassa that killed three people.
Kenyan authorities have accused her of being involved in plots to attack hotels and restaurants in the port city.
British tabloids reported she may have led the attack and there were also reports she was killed in the Kenyan government assault to take control of the shopping centre.
Kenyan blogger Robert Alai, who has been reporting on the attacks since Saturday, has been gathering information from his sources in the military and people who were held captive in the mall.
He said there has been a lot of speculation Lewthwaite was issuing orders when the siege began.
As a terrorist, she is “known to be very well experienced” he said. He said it’s unsure if a woman with a British accent, reported to be seen issuing orders when the siege began, was inside the mall or if she left the scene once the attack got underway.
“She has evaded police many, many times… she is very experienced in disguising herself,” Alai told Global News in a phone interview.
“If she is inside there… she might be one of the last ones to die,” he said.
He agrees that it’s all speculation that she’s involved, but he said reports the military is saying only men are involved may not be accurate either.
“The problem is the military is saying that they’re sure all of them are men, but they don’t know the number [of attackers]. You wonder how can you be sure all of them are men when you don’t know the number of the attackers,” he said.
A Reuters report on Monday cited three sources saying a white woman was among the terrorists killed in the assault: “Despite his assertion, one intelligence officer and two soldiers told Reuters that one of the dead militants was a white woman. This is likely to fuel speculation that she is the wanted widow of one of the suicide bombers who together killed more than 50 civilians on London’s transport system in 2005.”
“Asked if the dead woman was Lewthwaite, the intelligence officer said: ‘We don’t know,’” Reuters reported.
The BBC reported on Monday a total of six Britons died in the siege, but it was not known if any of them were among the attackers.
Lewthwaite’s name appeared in the news just eight days before the Westgate Mall attack when reports emerged that her new husband had been killed in Somalia.
Habib Ghani, a 28-year-old Briton who was on the U.K.’s most-wanted list, is believed to have been killed in the same attack that killed American jihadi Omar al-Hammami.
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