Kenya widens mall attack probe, alert for UK ‘White Widow’

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Interpol issued a wanted persons alert at Kenya’s request yesterday for a British woman who has been cited by British police as a possible suspect in the attack on a Nairobi shopping mall that killed at least 72 people.

The alert was issued as Kenyan police broadened the investigation into the weekend raid claimed by the al Qaeda-aligned Somali al Shabaab group, the worst such assault since the US Embassy was bombed in the capital by al Qaeda in 1998.

Kenya said that it requested the so-called “red alert” notice for Samantha Lewthwaite, 29, on Wednesday. Interpol has joined agencies from Britain, the United States, Israel and others in the Kenyan investigation of the wrecked mall.

Lewthwaite, the widow of one of the suicide bombers who attacked London’s transport system in 2005, is believed to have evaded arrest two years ago in the port city of Mombasa, where she is wanted in a plot to bomb hotels and restaurants. Interpol’s “red alert” cites that 2011 plot.

“The ‘red alert’ has nothing to do with Westgate. Her role in this attack is yet to be confirmed, but she is wanted on charges of possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony,” Ndegwa Muhoro, director of Kenya’s Criminal Investigation Department, told Reuters early yesterday.

Muhoro said she is wanted in a case related to another Briton, Jermaine Grant, whom police suspected of having ties to al Shabaab.

Police say Grant was arrested in a December 2011 raid which Lewthwaite escaped. He is on trial in Mombasa, charged with possession of explosives recovered from their apartment, and conspiracy to commit a felony, which he denies. “We have no facts linking her to Westgate for now.

If in the course of investigations these come up, we shall take action. We issued the alert after discovering evidence this month linking her to Grant and she would be charged with him,” Muhoro said.

Police in Mombasa, a tourist hub, said they were also tracking four suspected militants after the siege of the swanky Westgate mall, which militants stormed on Saturday armed with assault rifles and grenades. The mall attack has demonstrated the reach of al Shabaab beyond Somalia, where Kenyan troops have joined other African forces to drive the group out of major urban areas, although it still controls swathes of the countryside.

 

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