LONDON — The tabloids call her "the white widow," a British-born Muslim convert who was married to one of the suicide bombers in the 2005 attack on London's transit system. And for days, the British media have been rife with speculation she took part in the terrorist takeover at a Nairobi shopping mall.
On Thursday, Interpol, acting at Kenya's request, issued an arrest notice for 29-year-old fugitive Samantha Lewthwaite — not in the mall attack, but in a 2011 plot to bomb holiday resorts in Kenya.
If Lewthwaite indeed embraced the jihadi cause, it would mark a chilling turnabout for the apparently grieving widow who originally condemned the London transit bombings and criticized her late husband, Germaine Lindsay, for taking part.
Officials have not made public any evidence linking her to the mall attack. The Interpol notice did not mention it. And al-Shabab, the Somali Islamic extremist group behind the takeover, denied any female fighters participated.
Nevertheless, the timing of the Interpol notice fueled speculation she was involved — suspicions that were stoked earlier in the week by comments from Kenya's foreign minister that a British woman had a role in the bloodbath.
Interpol said this is the first time it has been asked to issue a "red notice" for Lewthwaite. The alert said she is wanted on charges of possessing explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony in December 2011.
Lewthwaite, the daughter of a former British soldier, was born in Northern Ireland and grew up in Aylesbury, a commuter hub northwest of London.
She converted to Islam, reportedly while in her teens, and went on to study religion and politics at the School Of Oriental and African Studies in London. It was around that time she met Lindsay, first in an Internet chat room and later at a London demonstration against the war in Iraq.
The coupled married in an Islamic ceremony in 2002.