Interpol Issues Global Alert For "White Widow"—but Not For the Crime Everyone's Talking About

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 26 2013 12:17 PM

Interpol Issues Global Alert For the "White Widow"—but Not For the Crime Everyone's Talking About

Lewthwaite on the cover of a September 2005 edition of the British newspaper the Sun.
Lewthwaite on the cover of a September 2005 edition of the British newspaper the Sun.

Courtesy The Sun/Handout

Interpol on Thursday issued an arrest notice on behalf of Kenya for Samantha Lewthwaite, the 29-year-old British mother of three known as the "White Widow." The timing of the request (along with who was requesting it) will continue to fuel the unconfirmed rumors suggesting that Lewthwaite was a key player in the recent terrorist attack at Nairobi's upscale Westgate shopping mall. In reality, however, authorities still have not given any concrete indication that they believe Lewthwaite was connected to this week's attack that left scores dead. Via the Associated Press:

Lewthwaite — a 29-year-old Muslim convert whose first husband was one of the suicide bombers in the 2005 attack on the London transit system that killed 52 commuters — is wanted by Kenyan authorities over alleged involvement in a plot to bomb holiday resorts there. ... The Interpol notice made no mention of Westgate ... saying that Lewthwaite is wanted on charges of possessing explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony in December 2011.
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Lewthwaite has been on the run since she was linked to the plot to bomb hotels popular with tourists in Kenya's second-largest city. And, as my colleague Justin Peters detailed earlier this week, the longer she been on the lam, the larger her myth has grown—despite the fact that there's been little if any evidence connecting her to any of the subsequent schemes she's been variously accused of, including the Nairobi mall attack.

She could, of course, later be tied to the Westgate attack but, for now, rumors of her involvement appear largely to be based on some rather sketchy eye-witness accounts. When it comes to the Mombasa plot, however, the case against her is a good deal stronger. Kenyan police uncovered that plan when they raided a Mombasa apartment and found bomb-making materials identical to those used in the London attacks. They later discovered that the apartment—along with a second one containing weapons, ammunition, and cash—had been rented by Lewthwaite, and Kenyan police would later arrest a man named Jermaine Grant, who eventually told authorities he had been operating under Lewthwaite’s direction.

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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