White Widow suspected of masterminding Kenyan mall attack: Grandmother under great stress
Councilor remembers British girl as 'lacking confidence'
"White Widow" Islamist Samantha Lewthwaite was just an average British girl who was "empty in confidence," a councilor recalls. The former wallflower is now suspected of masterminding the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya - and her grandmother has been hospitalized due to the attendant stress.
The pressure of the situation and Lewthwaite's now-global notoriety have taken their toll on the pensioner's health and mental well-being. "This is so distressing for everyone. Mrs Allen is 85 and she is in and out of hospital. It is just so distressing," Joan Baird, a veteran Ulster Unionist councilor in Banbridge says. "Certainly, everybody in the town is shocked and distressed by the news."
From Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Lewthwaite converted to Islam at the age of 17. She was married to Jermaine Lindsay before he blew himself up in the July 7 terror attacks in London in 2005, killing 26.
The 29-year-old mother of three is being sought by Kenyan police over alleged links to a terrorist cell that planned to bomb the country's coast. She's now the suspected mastermind behind the four-day gun and bomb attack on Westgate Shopping Center in Nairobi in which more than 60 people have lost their lives.
Lewthwaite is said to have enjoyed an unremarkable childhood on Banbridge's Whyte Acres estate. Her parents split in 1995.
Councilor Raj Khan, whose family knew Lewthwaite's family socially in Aylesbury, says he's surprised by the recent news. Her infamy as the "White Widow " is not how he remembers her. "She was an average, British, young, ordinary girl. She had a very great personality. She didn't have very good confidence," he said.
After becoming a Muslim, Lewthwaite changed her name to Sherafiyah and married suicide bomber Lindsay, who she had met on an Islamic internet chat room.
Khan met both of them shortly before the July 7 bombings, and he said she was just as he remembered her. "Certainly when I was around her, she was the same person, lacking in confidence.
"She was not strong-headed. And that's why I find it absolutely amazing that she is supposed to be the head of an international criminal terrorist organization," he said.
Khan sis perplexed that someone he knew, who was so "empty in confidence," I snow being linked to international terrorism.
" . my worry is that if she in involved, is she under some kind of duress? Is there other factors involved? Or indeed, is it Samantha? I mean there are so many questions to be answered at the moment before one can make a view."
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