Kenya seeks UK woman Samantha Lewthwaite's arrest

Frank Gardner explains that Samantha Lewthwaite's Kenyan charges relate not to this month's Westgate attack but to her "alleged possession of explosives in December 2011 and an alleged plot at that time to bomb a number of tourist resorts"

International police body Interpol has issued a wanted persons notice for Briton Samantha Lewthwaite, at Kenya's request.

Ms Lewthwaite, 29, is the widow of one of the four suicide bombers who attacked London on 7 July 2005.

Known colloquially as the "white widow", she has been linked with Somali militant Islamist group al-Shabab.

Interpol did not link the warrant to the Nairobi shopping complex attack that left at least 67 dead.

However, it comes after much speculation linking Ms Lewthwaite to events there.

Al-Shabab was behind the attack and subsequent four-day siege at the Westgate shopping complex in the Kenyan capital.

An Interpol statement said she was "wanted by Kenya on charges of being in possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony dating back to December 2011".

The Interpol alert, known as a "Red Notice", requires member countries to detain the suspect pending extradition procedures.

Analysis

Kenya's request for Interpol to issue a "red flag" for the arrest of Samantha Lewthwaite comes nearly two years after the alleged plot she is accused of being involved in.

The Kenyan charges relate not to this month's Westgate attack but to her alleged possession of explosives in December 2011 and an alleged plot at that time to bomb a number of tourist resorts on Kenya's coast.

This was serious enough for the Foreign Office to upgrade its travel alert for Kenya, and for Scotland Yard detectives to fly out to Kenya to investigate.

Ms Lewthwaite has been on the run for months and was reported to have crossed into Somalia last year.

She is not wanted for any terrorism offences in Britain but now that Interpol have circulated the alert for her arrest to 190 member countries, it raises her case from the national to the international. There is still no evidence she had any involvement in the Nairobi attacks.

Ms Lewthwaite - who is believed to use the alias "Natalie Webb" - had previously only been wanted for the alleged possession of a fraudulently obtained South African passport.

She is the widow of Germaine Lindsay, one of the four bombers involved in the 7 July terror attacks in London in 2005 in which 52 people were killed and hundreds more injured.

The BBC's Dominic Casciani says Interpol's red notice acts like a global wanted poster, but it's also a concession by the Kenyan security forces that she is an international danger, not just someone who should be regarded as a passport fraudster.

Kenya is continuing three days of official mourning for the civilian and military victims of the siege.

The funeral of pregnant television and radio star Ruhila Adatia-Sood was one of many being held on Thursday.

Flags are flying at half mast amid visibly tighter security around the Kenyan capital. Security guards were scanning passengers with metal detectors before they boarded buses.

Kenyan investigators have been joined by experts from the US, UK, Germany, Canada and Interpol to comb the sprawling shopping complex for DNA, fingerprints and ballistic clues.

On Thursday the UK Foreign Office said that the number of British nationals known to have been killed in the attack was lower than previously thought. It had reported that six Britons were among those killed, but it now says that one of the dead previously thought to be British is in fact a Kenyan national.

But at the same time the Foreign Office has warned that the number of British dead could rise before the search of the shopping centre is over.

Somali Islamist group al-Shabab has said it had carried out the attack in retaliation for Kenyan army operations in Somalia.

The militants stormed the Westgate centre on Saturday, throwing grenades and firing indiscriminately at shoppers and staff.

Twitter posts on an al-Shabab account said the group's militants had held 137 people hostage, and claimed the hostages had died after security forces fired chemical agents to end the siege.

A government spokesman denied any chemical agents were used, and authorities called on Kenyans to ignore militant propaganda.

Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, has repeatedly threatened attacks on Kenyan soil if Nairobi did not pull its troops out of Somalia.

About 4,000 Kenyan troops have been serving in the south of Somalia since October 2011 as part of an African Union force supporting Somali government forces.

The group is banned as a terrorist group by both the US and the UK and is believed to have between 7,000 and 9,000 fighters.

Its members are fighting to create an Islamic state in Somalia.

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