Possibility: The idea that Samantha Lewthwaite, 29, of Buckinghamshire, might have ordered the attack – or even led it herself – is not far-fetched at all
Last night, as the bodies were still being counted at the shopping mall, one British woman was notably slow to join the condemnation.
For Samantha Lewthwaite, the daughter of a former British soldier who grew up attending school discos in Buckinghamshire, views these awful events as a cause for jubilation.
Kenyan anti-terror police revealed yesterday that Lewthwaite – who is known to many as the White Widow – may be the brains behind the operation to bring terror to the heart of Kenya, a country once synonymous with the sexual high-jinks of the Happy Valley expatriate set, but rapidly becoming a new battleground in the war between Islamists and the West.
‘I suspect this woman Lewthwaite is behind this attack,’ a senior anti-terror source told me last night as survivors described how a woman in a veil appeared to be commanding the other terrorists as they hunted down and killed non-Muslim shoppers.
The idea that she might have ordered the attack – or even led it herself – is not far-fetched at all.
Having converted to Islam as a young woman and married a man who went on to be a 7/7 London suicide bomber, she has become a key figure in the terror group behind this weekend’s attack.
Lewthwaite has even been involved in training a group of all-female suicide attackers at camps in lawless neighbouring Somalia.
It is an extraordinary, macabre journey into darkness for the 29-year-old, who grew up as a normal teenager in Aylesbury before meeting Jermaine Lindsay, a British Muslim, in an online chat room when she was 17. The pair married three years later.
When her husband was named as one of four suicide bombers who blew up Tube trains and a bus in 2005, killing 52 people, Lewthwaite initially condemned her late husband’s attack and denied any knowledge of his plan.
This was a lie. More than eight years later, Lewthwaite is one of Al Qaeda’s main recruiters in East Africa and is an official spokesman for Al Shabaab (The People), the terrorist group behind the horror in Nairobi.
As well as railing against ‘infidels in the West’, Lewthwaite had previously used a Twitter account to denounce a rival foreign terrorist in the text-speak of a teenager.
‘Fyi [for your information] sam lewthwaite thinks u r a irritating obnoxious contemptible little Muj PRAT,’ she wrote. (‘Muj’ is a contraction of mujahideen – a jihadist).
The object of her anger was Omar Shafik Hammami, a former student from Alabama. Last week he was shot dead in an ambush by terrorists loyal to the White Widow.
‘May his fate serve as a lesson to all those who want to follow in his footsteps as a poster boy for jihad,’ Lewthwaite wrote gleefully on Twitter.
To add to her name for ruthlessness, the White Widow did not mention in her tweets that a British man reputed to be her second husband was also killed in the ambush.
Her fearless reputation within Africa’s growing Islamic terror network has been strengthened by her own involvement as a mujahid – or warrior – during a series of bombings and shootings in Kenya’s tourist areas.
Known to her devoted followers as dada muzungu – Swahili for white sister – Lewthwaite moved to Kenya with her three children in 2007.
A small, dumpy woman, she cut off all links with her family in Britain and became immersed in East Africa’s Islamic terror networks, forging links with other British fanatics who had come to Kenya to wage ‘jihad’ against non-believers. It was last year that details of Lewthwaite’s secret new life emerged in grisly detail.
A white woman, later identified as Lewthwaite, had led a group of terrorists who fired grenades into a bar in Mombasa, the Kenyan coastal tourist resort popular with Britons. Three people, including a child, were killed and more than 50 injured.
In truth, I was deeply sceptical when news was first leaked two years ago about the White Widow’s alleged role as a terrorist with the group now causing carnage in Nairobi.
Yet now, having spent time among her acolytes in the Islamic stronghold where she once lived near Mombasa, and in briefings with police, prosecutors and senior investigators during subsequent investigations in Nairobi, I have no doubt that Lewthwaite is a cold-blooded killer and a dangerous ideologue.
Senior officers in Kenya have told me they will kill her on sight. So far, however, she has avoided arrest by wearing all-concealing Islamic dress as she has flitted between Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania.
Meanwhile, the group she is allied to continues to wreak havoc in the region.
Al Shabaab grew out of the chaos of Somalia, and has seen jihadists wage a brutal war to impose strict sharia law in the East African state.
But Kenyan forces, supported by Britain and America, have been waging war across the border in Somalia in an attempt to keep the Islamists from power.
With the war against Al Shabaab in Somalia proving highly effective, Kenya’s support has made it a key enemy of the Islamists.
Even before this weekend’s attack, the activities of Lewthwaite and her fellow terrorists had turned Kenya into a place of fear and paranoia.
Clearly, the White Widow has a taste for blood. It remains to be seen whether she will live long enough to kill again.
Read more: Daily Mail