THE terror attack on a Kenyan shopping centre that has left 68 dead was being led by the white English widow of a 7/7 London suicide bomber, it was claimed today.
Soldiers said a white woman wearing a veil was shouting orders to gunmen in Arabic during the bloody massacre inside the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi.
Islamist terror group Al Shabaab claimed it carried out the atrocity in which three Britons were killed and 175 people were left injured.
It said last night on Twitter that Samantha Lewthwaite, the ‘white widow’ of London 7/7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay, was ‘in their ranks’ and a ‘brave lady’.
Police, however, have told reporters that they are still investigating the possibility the woman may have been a hostage dressed in one of the terrorists’ clothes as a “decoy” during the attack which saw Kenyan authorities regain control of most of the four-storey shopping mall.
Lewthwaite, known as the “White Widow” to Britain’s tabloid media, is wanted on a string of terrorism related charges in Kenya. The 29-year-old mother of four, from the Home Counties, is believed to be a leading figure in Somali terror organisation Al Shabaab.
She is also wanted for questioning in relation to a series of coordinated suicide attacks in central London on July 7, 2005, in which her husband blew himself up. A double-decker bus and several underground trains were attacked, killing the four suicide bombers and 52 civilians.
Fifteen hostages were still trapped inside the shopping centre after more than 24 hours of carnage in which men, women and children were slaughtered if they could not recite the Koran or name the mother of the Prophet Mohammed.
As well as boasting Lewthwaite was with them, Al Shabaab claimed two British men from London, Liban Adam, 23, and Ahmed Nasir Shirdoon, 24, were among the ‘holy warriors’ in the attack.
The group is said to be highly organised, with huge amounts of ammunition as well as night vision equipment. They have destroyed CCTV cameras inside the shopping mall, meaning they cannot be watched. With horrific cruelty, they have reportedly cut the hands off the bodies of their victims and burned their faces to try to conceal their identities.
Writing on Twitter, the terrorists said: ‘Sherafiyah lewthwaite aka samantha is a vrave [brave] lady! were [we are] happier to have her in our ranks!’ Sherafiyah is the Muslim name now used by Lewthwaite.
Another tweet read: ‘our mujahideen are prepared to die for our cause!’
Last night the terrorists were closed into the second and third floors of a storage warehouse in the mall. Soldiers claimed to have taken control of the ground and first floors.
One said: ‘It is all being controlled by this muzungu [Swahili for white] woman. She is ordering them what to do. We are getting closer to them.’
The massacre began on Saturday shortly before midday local time. Witnesses told how terrorists, their faces hidden with Islamic scarfs, stormed the shopping mall and started tossing grenades and spraying shoppers with AK-47s.
The gunmen ordered all Muslims to leave before carrying out rudimentary tests to see if hostages could recite the Koran and name the mother of the Prophet Mohammed.
Terrified shoppers fled and hid in storerooms, restaurants and a cinema, with the wounded being carried out in shopping trolleys.
Shoppers who were able to prove they were Muslim were among the 1,000 who escaped unharmed, while those who failed were shot for being ‘kafir’, a derogatory term for non-Muslims. One man, who hid in a box of cartons, said: ‘If they had found me … I’m white and so I’m dead. They hate your skin colour.’
Those killed so far vary in age from two to 78.
A spokesman for Al Shabaab, the East African arm of Al-Qaeda, said all Britons in Kenya are ‘legitimate’ targets because the UK has supported the African country’s military intervention in neighbouring Somalia.
The Twitter account purporting to belong to the terrorist organisation also said ‘there would be no negotiations whatsoever’.
The siege of the Israeli-owned mall bears all the hallmarks of Muslim-convert Lewthwaite, 29, who is on the run in East Africa after Kenyan police foiled her plot to blow up a shopping centre and two hotels in Mombasa two years ago.
The Home Counties mother-of-four is now one of the main financiers and bomb-making tutors for Al Shabaab. A senior Kenyan terrorist official said last night: ‘I suspect this woman is behind this attack because she has been financing the activities of the Al-Qaeda cell in Mombasa.’
Last night British, US and Israeli security forces joined their Kenyan counterparts to try to regain control of the mall. There were unconfirmed reports that some hostages had been executed after attempts by the military to launch an assault on the roof.
Some claimed hostages were ‘shot and thrown out of the window’ of the building’s fourth floor.
Other attackers identified on the Twitter account were from Finland, Kenya, Somalia, Canada and America.
Last night, Al Shabaab spokesman Mukhtaar Robow told Channel 4: ‘The English know Somalis will not give up the fight.’
Prime Minister David Cameron described the assault as ‘absolutely sickening’.
President Barack Obama says the United States stands with Kenya against the “terrible outrage” of a shopping mall terrorist attack.
Obama says the United States is providing law enforcement assistance and all the help it can to deal with the tragedy.
Obama was making his first public remarks on the attack while meeting with Nigeria’s president on the sidelines of the United Nations Monday. Obama had called Kenya’s president over the weekend to offer condolences and support.
Obama said the attack shows the international community must stand against the “senseless violence” he said groups like al-Shabab represent.
- Nairobi: Terror raid ‘led by white widow’: Gang mastermind in veil barked orders at gunmen in mall massacre that left three Britons dead (dailymail.co.uk)
- 69 dead in Kenya mall attack (cnn.com)
- 7/7 widow on the run is at the heart of terror group behind Kenya shopping centre attack (express.co.uk)