Samantha Lewthwaite is the 32-year-old mother of four children who grew up mainly in Aylesbury, England, the daughter of a British Army soldier. But somewhere along the line in Samantha’s young life, something went wrong — very wrong.
Now, according to intelligence officials who spoke to the Daily Mirror newspaper for a report published May 17, Lewthwaite resides in Somalia and is the terrorist mastermind known as The White Widow, a radical killer responsible for the deaths of 400 people.
Following her parents’ painful divorce when Samantha was still a teenager, she is said to have sought comfort from a neighbor family, who were Muslims. Before long, still reeling with the trauma of her parents’ breakup, she adopted her surrogate family’s religion, converting to Islam.
But her conversion comes far from explaining her extreme radicalization and transformation into The White Widow, reportedly a top leader in the bloodthirsty Somalian al-Shabaab terrorist group, and who is often called the world’s most wanted woman.
Her first husband, Jamaican-born Germaine Lindsay, became a suicide bomber, blowing himself up in the July 7, 2005, attacks on the London subway that killed 52 people.
At the time, Lewthwaite condemned her husband’s actions as “abhorrent,” saying, “How these people could have turned him and poisoned his mind is dreadful.” She was not considered by investigators to have any connection to the attacks.
But she soon left the United Kingdom, and surfaced a year later in South Africa. Even then, she held an ordinary job as a computer technician. It wasn’t until 2011, when authorities found documents bearing her picture, identifying her as “Natalie Faye Webb” in an al-Shabaab bomb-making facility, that intelligence officials connected her to the terror group.
A Somali intelligence official who spoke to the Mirror said that her rise up the ranks of al-Shabaab has been quick, thanks to drone strikes that have taken out numerous higher-ranking leaders.
“This lady sits at the right hand of the leader directing attacks,” an intelligence source told the Mirror.
“She is an evil person but a very clever operator,” another told the paper.
Lewthwaite is believed by the officials to be behind the mass murder of 148 at a university in Kenya last month, and is highly active in recruiting young women to become suicide bombers, the Mirror reported, often bribing their families with cash.
“She does not carry out attacks herself as she is too important but is responsible for many, many deaths — hundreds,” the Mirror quotes one spy official saying.
“She uses children to kill for her after giving money to their families.”
Last November, it was widely reported that Lewthwaite had been killed by a Russian sniper in Ukraine, where she supposedly was lending her services to the government. But the claim appears to have been nothing more than disinformation, as Lewthwaite was reported in April to be in Yemen, working as a recruiter for al-Qaida there.
At that time, however, intelligence officials claimed that Samantha Lewthwaite was nothing more than a “low level” operative who had gained considerable weight and suffered from ill health. The report in Sunday’s Mirror appears to contradict those claims.
[Image via Daily Mirror]