A young British woman known as the White Widow, Samantha Lewthwaite, is at the centre of a new Netflix documentary series titled World’s Most Wanted.
Lewthwaite, now 36, was linked, via her then-husband, to the London bombings of July 7, 2005, and has since gone on to work with the Al-Shabaab terror group in Somalia, having evaded numerous close calls as police closed in on her, according to the documentary. She has also been tied to Al-Qaeda.
Lewthwaite features as one of five episodes on people considered some of the most sought-after in the world, alongside Mexican cartel kingpin Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada and Russian underworld boss Semion Mogilevich.
Lewthwaite was married to London 7/7 bomber Germaine Lindsay, but pleaded her own innocence in a newspaper interview after the events, saying she was “horrified” by the attack. Soon after, however, she disappeared from view, and she has since been implicated in bombings across Africa and the Middle East.
Now believed to be working with Al-Shabab, she was accused of involvement in a bombing at a bar in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2012, before being tied to the attack by Al-Shabbab on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013, which saw 68 people perish when gunmen stormed the shopping area, shooting and throwing grenades. Witnesses to that attack told local media that an English-speaking woman was seen at the mall, directing fighters. She is said by experts in the documentary to have taken on a “symbolic role” within the terror group — in essence one of their key figures who should be protected at all costs. Although authorities are said to have tracked her movements closely, snatching her from a phalanx of Al-Shabaab fighters is fraught with danger, experts outline on screen.
Though at first shielded by an Al-Qaeda unit known as the “suicide squad,” Lewthwaite later left that unit to come under Al-Shabbab command, the International Business Times has reported. She is now presumed to be in hiding, covered by Al-Shabab militants along the Somalia-Kenya border. Kenya is pursuing her for alleged possession of explosives and conspiracy, but she has evaded authorities in that country before, once by using a fake South African passport, as the Netflix documentary dramatically outlines.
According to the Radio Times, Lewthwaite was born in Northern Ireland in 1993, before later moving to the market town of Aylesbury in England. She is said to have studied at the University of London but did not complete her course in politics and religion, and converted to Islam from Christianity at the age of 17, after the breakup of her parents’ marriage. She married London suicide bomber Lindsay, the Radio Times reports, in 2002 and later married other men, including a senior Al-Shabbab man Hassan Maalim Ibrahimm.
She is said in the Netflix documentary to have first met London bomber Lindsay as they marched to protest the U.K’s involvement in the Iraq War, in the early 2000s. Lindsay would go on a few years later to blow himself and 26 others up, detonating a suicide bomb on a London underground train. The Sun reports that at the time, Lewthwaite was carrying their second child. Despite her denials after the event, the Sun reports that at a later inquest, it emerged that she did in fact know Mohammad Sidique Kahn, one of the attack’s masterminds, since as far back as 2004, well before the London attacks took place.
She was at one point reported to have died fighting in the Donbas region during the 2014 conflict in Ukraine, but that has never been proven.