September 24, 2013 6:39 pm
Updated: September 24, 2013 7:21 pm

How did Samantha Lewthwaite become the ‘White Widow’?

Samantha Lewthwaite, dubbed the "White Widow" is the British fugitive widow of 7/7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay (right).

Mark St George, Rex Features/The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – Samantha Lewthwaite became a darling of the British tabloids for all the wrong reasons.

She was about 22 years old when her 19-year-old husband Germaine Lindsay set off a bomb and blew himself up in the London Underground — part of a series of attacks that killed 52 commuters on July 7, 2005.

Jamaican-born Lindsay was single-handedly responsible for 26 deaths.

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Now, Lewthwaite is widely speculated to have played a role in the siege at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, where at least 62 civilians — including two Canadians have been confirmed dead.

READ MORE: ‘White Widow,’ Canadian man rumoured to be involved in Kenya mall attack

Lewthwaite, born to a Northern Irish mother and a British soldier father, lived with Lindsay in Aylesbury along with their 15-month-old son, Abdullah, and was eight months pregnant with their daughter when he took part in the attacks.

A woman holds a copy of the British tabloid newspaper The Sun, in London, Friday, Sept. 23, 2005 which carries on its front page their story of Samantha Lewthwaite, wife of suspected London suicide bomber Germaine Linsday. (Photo: Andrew Stuart/AP Photo)

Andrew Stuart/AP Photo

According to a 2005 report in the Telegraph, she said her “whole world [had] fallen apart” because of her husband’s role in the suicide bombings.

“I totally condemn and am horrified by the atrocities. I am the wife of Germaine Lindsay, and never predicted or imagined that he was involved in such horrific activities. He was a loving husband and father,” the Telegraph reported Lewthwaite saying in a statement.

Friends told Britain’s the Daily Mail she turned to Islam when she was 15. She had been troubled by her parents split in 1994 and sought support from Muslim neighbours, but later began following the faith and began wearing a jilbab.

An undated school photo of Samantha Lewthwaite. (Credit: Mark St George, Rex Features/The Canadian Press)

Mark St George, Rex Features/The Canadian Press

She converted to Islam at the age of 17 and began calling herself Sherafiyah.

She met Lindsay in “an Islamic chatroom” while she was studying religion and politics at London’s School of Oriental and African studies.

Lewthwaite is now 30 and has three children — two with Lindsay and one born in 2009 to another father, said to be a Moroccan Muslim she lived with in Birmingham.

According to several news reports, she entered Kenya in Feb. 2011 with a fake South African passport under the name of Natalie Faye Webb.

South African passport believed to have been used by Samantha Lewthwaite, dubbed the 'White Widow.' (Credit: Mark St George, Rex Features/The Canadian Press)

South African passport believed to have been used by Samantha Lewthwaite, dubbed the ‘White Widow.’ (Photo: Mark St George, Rex Features/The Canadian Press)

A year later, she was named in connection to a plot hatched by another British citizen named Jermaine Grant, who is currently on trial for possessing explosive materials in connection with plans to attack tourist hotels and restaurants in Mombasa over Christmas 2011.

Suspected British militant Jermaine Grant, accused of ties to Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab and plotting attacks, arrives on September 24, 2013 for the start of his trial before Shanzu law court in the port city of Mombasa. Grant was arrested in December 2011 in Mombasa with various chemicals, batteries and switches, which prosecutors say he planned to use to make explosives. Prosecutors have accused Grant, a 30-year-old Muslim convert, of working with fellow Briton Samantha Lewthwaite. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images

She has eluded Kenyan authorities since they broke up an al-Shabab-linked cell connected to the Mombasa terror plot.

Al-Shabab, the Somalia-based militant group with ties to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the Westgate Mall attack.

Although police questioned Lewthwaite at the time, the Telegraph reported they believed she was “an innocent tourist,” named Natalie Faye Webb.

She reportedly fled from Mombasa to Somalia after she was questioned, but according to the Telegraph, police found a diary detailing being the devoted wife of a mujihadeen.

“… In the diary, she wrote that the ‘devoted’ wife of a ‘mujihadeen’ must realise that her ‘life in the hereafter promised to be sweeter’ because of her husband’s ‘sacrifice’, said a police officer. The entry, written in a tatty A5 exercise book, added that such a wife must be ‘discrete’ (sic), ‘obedient’ and must understand that her husband’s ‘calling’ meant that both he and his wife would be cut off from their families,” read a report in the Telegraph published on Mar. 5, 2012.

She was charged in absentia and a warrant was issued for her arrest in Feb. 2012, after Kenyan police determined her identity.

International authorities, including Scotland Yard, London Metropolitan Police and the CIA, assisted with the 2012 hunt for the woman.

Lewthwaite has also been linked to other terror plots/attacks in Kenya, including the June 2012 grenade attack at Mombasa’s Jericho Beer Garden, which killed three and injured 25, as well as a failed attempt to break Grant out of prison in March of this year, and has also been reported to be a financier for terrorist activities.

Aside from her connection to Grant, The Sunday Mirror reported she married a Kenyan-Brit Islamist named Habib Gani. He is believed to have been killed on Sept. 12 in an attack that also claimed the life of U.S.-born al-Shabab member Omar Hammami.

A little more than a week later, after gunmen armed with grenades stormed the Westgate Mall, reports emerged that a white woman with a British accent was seen at the shopping centre and that she was possibly directing attackers.

There have been conflicting reports about the alleged involvement and reports that she may have been killed in the government assault to take control of the mall.

Reuters cited three sources on Monday as 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.

PBS Newshour spoke with Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Amina Mohamad on Monday, who also suggested a British woman was involved in the attack.

When asked if the British national allegedly involved was a woman, Mohamed responded “Woman. Woman. And she has, I think, done this many times before.”

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