A worldwide alert has been issued for the arrest of the British woman terror suspect dubbed the “White Widow”.
The “red notice” for the arrest of Samantha Lewthwaite – who was married to one of the 7 July bombers – was issued by Interpol at the request of the Kenyan authorities.
It relates to charges of possessing explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony dating back to December 2011, but makes no mention of the Nairobi shopping mall attack, despite intense speculation linking her to the incident.
A red notice – or internationally wanted persons alert – notifies police forces around the world that an individual is wanted by an Interpol member state and requests the suspect is placed under provisional arrest pending extradition.
Interpol secretary-general Ronald Noble said: “By requesting an Interpol red notice, Kenya has activated a global ‘tripwire’ for this fugitive. Through the Interpol red notice, Kenyan authorities have ensured that all 190 member countries are aware of the danger posed by this woman, not just across the region but also worldwide.”
Lewthwaite – who is believed to use the alias Natalie Webb – had previously only been wanted by the Kenyans at national level for the possession of a fraudulently obtained South African passport.
The 29-year-old, who converted to Islam as a teenager, was married to Jermaine Lindsay, one of the four suicide bombers who carried out the 7 July
attacks in London in 2005.
Initially, she said she was horrified by the attack, but in 2009 she disappeared with her three children and for the past two years has been on the run in East Africa after allegedly plotting to attack Western targets in Kenya.
Reports that one of the al-Qaeda-linked militants who carried out the Westgate attack was a woman has prompted speculation that she was involved.
Al-Shabaab, the Somali group responsible, has denied the claims but the Kenyan authorities have said forensic experts are working to establish if any of the attackers was female.
Mr Noble said her case highlighted the “invisible threat”’ posed by terrorists and criminals travelling internationally using illicit passports.
“Every year, hundreds of millions of individuals are boarding international transport and crossing borders without having the authenticity of their travel or identity document checked,” he said.
“This dramatically compromises our ability to effectively screen and identify at airports and land crossings those individuals who could be suspected criminals and terrorists.”
Yesterday, the Foreign Office said the number of Britons killed in the attack on the Westgate mall attack has been revised down from six to five.
A spokeswoman said: “We can now confirm that on present information five British nationals have been killed in the recent terror attacks in Nairobi. One individual previously thought to be British is a Kenyan national. Our thoughts are with his family and with the friends and family of all of those who have died.
“We cannot rule out the potential for further British casualties and we continue to stay in close contact with the Kenyan authorities.”