A report has emerged which appears to paint a Northern Irish woman at the heart of an African extremist network.
The report says that Kenyan intelligence points towards Samantha Lewthwaite being “an important figure in the terror outfit, plotting multiple bomb attacks across Kenya”.
The information stems from a piece published on the Sky News website yesterday, in which the news organisation said it obtained a 35-page intelligence dossier.
Ms Lethwaite had been married to one of the 7/7 bombers, and afterwards she was quoted in the press strongly condemning what she called the “incomprehensible devastation” of the attacks.
Today her whereabouts are not known, and she is being sought by Interpol.
Although its news report does not quote extensively from the dossier directly, Sky said it describes Ms Lewthwaite – who was rumoured to have been linked with the Kenyan shopping centre atrocity last month – as being “a ‘logistician’ within a six-person terror cell”, and part of the al-Shabaab network.
The news report said this cell is acting under the command of a man believed to be one of the organisation’s “management”. It adds that Ms Lewthwaite may now have remarried, possibly to the leader of an extremist cell.
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for September’s Westgate shopping centre attack in Nairobi, which is believed to have left over 60 dead after militants stormed the civilian complex.
The Islamist jihadi group is largely based in east Africa, particularly Somalia.
At the time Prime Minister David Cameron was quoted as saying that those responsible had “a warped view of the world,” adding: “The perpetrators claim they do it in the name of a religion – they don’t.”
The Sky News report yesterday suggested there were signs up to eight months earlier that an attack was being plotted.
There has been wide-ranging and sometimes contradictory information about the attack, with initial reports that a woman was present later met by counter-claim.
There were also early suggestions the number of attackers could have been over a dozen - but this estimate was later scaled down. Last weekend Kenyan authorities released the names of just four individuals they believed to be behind the attack – a list which did not include Ms Lewthwaite.
Some analysts have also questioned how likely it is that al-Shabaab would rely on women as prominent fighters.
Channel 4 News in late September quoted a spokesman for the group saying: “We don’t send our women on to the battlefield.”
Banbridge-born wanted woman
The whereabouts of Ms Lethwaite, widely dubbed ‘The White Widow’ by media because of her marriage to one of the London suicide bombers, have been unknown for some time.
It is understood Ms Lewthwaite was born in Banbridge to a Co Down woman and English soldier father, and that her grandmother – in her mid-80s – still lives in the town.
She later moved to England.