Thursday, September 26, 2013
The Most Dangerous Woman in the World
Samantha Lewthwaite, also notoriously known as the "White Widow", is arguably the holder of that 'Most Dangerous Woman in the World' title. The current internationally wanted fugitive has certainly earned a nomination for the title.
She was born in Banbridge, County Down, on December 5th, 1983 to parents who met when her father, a British Army soldier, was stationed in her mother's native Northern Ireland during the 1970's.
The family moved to Aylesbury, a town about 45 miles northwest of London, when she was a small girl, and it was there that she attended school. But it was not to remain a happy family life. At age 10, her parents separated. Friends say that she was greatly affected and disillusioned by the split, and gradually sought comfort in relationships with her Muslim neighbors, whom she felt had a stronger family ethic.
During her teenage years she seriously began to turn to Islam herself, and at about age 17 she officially converted, taking on the name 'Sherafiyah' in her new faith. She enrolled at the School of Oriental and African Studies near the British Museum, and began work towards a degree in Religion and Politics.
Sometime in 2001, she 'met' a man named Germaine Lindsay online in an Islamic internet chatroom. They soon met in person, and by October of 2002 the couple married using Islamic names, 'Asmantara' for her, and 'Jamal' for him. Though using an official Islamic ceremony, the wedding did not take place in a mosque or other licensed location, and so was never officially registered. Her parents, who never approved of her conversion, did not attend.
The pair would have two children together (she is now believed to have 3-4 kids altogether), but much as her childhood, her own family was not destined for a life of happy togetherness.
On July 7th, 2005, Islamic terrorists carried out a series of attacks targeting civilian passengers on London's public transportation system. There were more than 700 casualties in what became known as the "7/7 Attacks", with 56 people killed, including the 4 suicide bombers. Germaine Lindsay was one of those radical jihadists.
In the aftermath, Lewthwaite at first became a sort-of cause celeb in the Brit tabloids. She reported him missing six days after the bombings, and when it was learned that he was one of the attackers, she denied any knowledge of his activities, and in fact publicly condemned them. She defended her husband as having been a recent convert who was tricked into complicity by extremists. The white local woman who had married a black Muslim was treated sympathetically in front page stories for a time.
However, interviews with her family members, and the continuing investigation began to reveal cracks in her story. Her own early life conversion became known, and a pre-7/7 association with Mohammad Sidique Khan, ringleader of the attack, came to light. At some point in the next couple of years, she met and married suspected Islamic terrorist Habib Saleh Ghani. In 2009, she had another child which was likely Ghani's, though no father was ever named officially.
Around that time, Lewthwaite and her children simply disappeared. Reports had her in the north of England, and then somewhere in the Middle East or Africa, possibly in Tanzania or Somalia. In February of 2012, she re-emerged, or at least her identity did. Anti-terrorist police in Kenya issued a warrant for her arrest under the name Natalie Faye Webb, and it came to light that she was an integral player in the Al-Shabaab cell of al-Qaeda.
Investigators uncovered her diary, which among other things related that she was the "devoted wife of a mujihadeen" (holy warrior), and that as such she must be discreet, obedient, and must understand that "both he and his wife would be cut off from their families" while pursuing jihad (holy war.)
Subsequent investigations have revealed that she is a leader and organizer in the cell, not usually carrying out attacks herself directly, but a key cog in the important areas of fund-raising, weapons acquisition, concealing and transporting of individuals, and more. In March of 2012, the CIA joined the hunt for Lewthwaite, who would begin stepping up her activities.
In June 2012, patrons were crowded into a bar in Mombasa, Kenya to watch a Euro 2012 match between Italy and England. The bar was attacked by Islamists who tossed grenades, and a number of people were killed and wounded. She is now wanted as having orchestrated that attack.
Today, Interpol has issued what is known as a 'Red Alert' on the woman born as Samantha Lewthwaite. This amounts to an international warrant for her arrest. This month, the Westgate Mall in Nairobi was attacked by Al-Shabaab. Information has surfaced that 2-3 American natives were involved, as well as a Brit female who accompanied them. This is believed now to have been Lewthwaite.
Despite some reports that a white woman was found among the dead bodies at Westgate, believed to have been one of the terrorists, early speculation that this was perhaps Lewthwaite appear to run contrary to today's Red Alert issuance. Was the 'White Widow' finally brought down in Kenya, or is 'The Most Dangerous Woman in the World' still out there, waiting to strike yet again? Time will tell.
The tale of Samantha Lewthwaite, the young girl born into a typical Northern Irish family, is the story of a criminal and a terrorist. But it is also a cautionary tale, representative of a growing problem: the changing face of radical Islam.
Young, middle-class, white natives of European countries, especially Great Britain, as well as Canada and the United States, being seduced into the Muslim 'faith', indoctrinated into radicalism, and growing into less conspicuous, and thus in many concrete ways more dangerous, allies in the Islamic Jihad against the west that continues today.