Netflix’s latest true-crime docuseries – World’s Most Wanted – landed today, with five episodes looking at some of the most searched-for fugitives on the planet.
Episode three of the series centres around Samantha Lewthwaite, dubbed as the White Widow by the press, who is one of the most wanted terrorism suspects in the world due to her involvement in various attacks across Africa and the Middle East.
The 36-year-old was married to 7/7 London bomber Germaine Lindsay and since the 2006 attack, has been subject to an Interpol arrest warrant due to her links to Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda terrorist cells.
Here’s everything you need to know about the notorious terror suspect who is looked at on the Netflix documentary.
Who is Samantha Lewthwaite?
Samantha Lewthwaite, who is currently a fugitive from justice in Kenya, was born 1983 in Northern Ireland and grew up in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.
She studied politics and religion at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London before dropping out.
Lewthwaite was raised as a Christian, but converted to Islam aged 17 after her parents separated in 1994 and adopted the Muslim name Sherafiyah.
She married Germaine Lindsay in October 2002 and is believed to have married twice since – to Habib Saleh Ghani in 2013 (according to the Daily Telegraph) and Hassan Maalim Ibrahimm, a senior commander in the Al-Shabaab militant group, in 2014 (via International Business Times).
She is believed to have four children, who are currently on the run with her.
What is Samantha Lewthwaite wanted for?
Samantha Lewthwaite’s husband was responsible for the 7/7 bomb attacks, which took place on 7th July 2005.
Lindsay detonated a bomb attached to himself as he travelled between the King’s Cross and Russell Square tube stations. He killed 26 civilians in the attack.
Lewthwaite, who was pregnant with the couple’s second child, denied Lindsay’s involvement until the police produced forensic evidence and denied prior knowledge of the attacks. However, in an inquest into the bombing, it was found that she associated with Mohammad Sidique Khan, the London bombers’ ringleader prior to the attack.
Links to terror cell in Kenya
After the 7/7 bombings, Lewthwaite reportedly married Habib Saleh Ghani and disappeared with her children, believed to have been in hiding in Tanzania or Somalia.
In 2012, Lewthwaite was wanted for questioning in Kenya over a suspected terror plot, which was organised by a terror unit affiliated to Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab.
Lewthwaite was found to be using at least three different identities, including her true identity, using a fraudulently obtained South African passport for one of them.
Kenyan police believed she had entered Kenya in November 2011 using a fraudulent passport under the name Natalie Webb and then joined other members of the terrorist cell in Mombasa. Lewthwaite was placed under surveillance by Kenyan police after moving into an apartment Mombasa belonging to the former wife of terrorist financier Musa Hussein Abdi.
After investigating Lewthwaite further, they found that under the identity of Natalie Webb, she had worked as an IT specialist in Johannesburg whilst living in rented properties in the area and ran up a number of unpaid debts from bank loans credit card and clothing store charge accounts in South Africa of over R59,000 (£2560).
Scotland Yard, the CIA and Kenyan authorities were conducting an international hunt to find Lewthwaite, who in 2011, was reportedly closely linked to the former wife of Al-Qaeda chief Mohammed Saddiq Odeh and confirmed to be the leader of a terror cell by Jermaine Grant – a Briton arrested on terrorism charges.
In January 2012, Kenyan authorities issued an arrest warrant for Lewthwaite over charges of possessing bomb-making material and conspiring to create an explosive device.
Attacks in Mombasa and Nairobi
In July 2012, Lewthwaite was suspected of being involved in a grenade attack, which took place on the Jericho bar in Mombasa during a Euro 2012 football match between England and Italy.
A year later, in September 2013, she was linked to an attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, which killed 71 people and injured 200, however the attack was claimed by Al-Shabaab which claimed no women played a role in the attack.
In October 2013, reports emerged concerning a laptop and flash drive used by Lewthwaite, which a Sky News investigation suggested she had used to search bomb-making tips while files containing poems, which Lewthwaite had allegedly written paying tribute to al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, were also found.
Where is she now?
Lewthwaite has still not been found, having managed to evade capture for years.
The Sun recently reported that she was rumoured to have been killed by a Russian sniper in 2014, but those claims have never been confirmed.
Many believe she may be hiding out in Kenya or Somalia thanks to her al-Shabaab connections, which make her nearly untouchable. “I don’t think she’s a woman who will give up that easy,” Zakia Hussein, deputy chief of Somali police, says in World’s Most Wanted. “But neither will I.”
Some argue Lewthwaite is a “study in terrorist mythmaking” , however, World’s Most Wanted shows her as a serious threat. She is wanted by Interpol, the CIA, MI5 and MI6, but has managed to evade them all by using at least three different aliases, including Natalie Faye Webb.
“She knows how to avoid observation and surveillance,” says Patrick Mercer, former British army colonel, in the series. “I think she got a kick out of it.