Al-Shabaab’s ‘White Widow’ commands 200-strong spy squad: report

Since becoming a key member of the group, Lewthwaite is claimed to have masterminded the murders of 400 people – including the Kenyan university massacre last month which left 148 dead (Photo courtesy of Interpol)

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Samantha Lewthwaite, a British convert to Islam and commander with Somali militant  group al-Shabaab known as the “White Widow,” is in charge of a 200-strong army of female spies, UK newspaper The Daily Mail reported on Wednesday.

Lewthwaite, who is the widow of one of the London 7/7 bombers, is working al-Shabaab’s spy unit, known as the Amniyat, according to the country’s intelligence agencies.

Since becoming a key member of the group, Lewthwaite is claimed to have masterminded the murders of 400 people – including the Kenyan university massacre last month which left 148 dead.

Somali authorities say she lives with a group of widowed al-Shabaab fighters – who refer to her as the “mother of holy war” – and trains them to gather information on government controlled areas by posing as street sellers, hotel workers, and tea shop owners.

A Somali intelligence officer told the Daily Mail website that one of her operatives was behind the suicide attack on Central Hotel in Mogadishu in February. The attacker, a Somali born woman, had posed as a receptionist. The bombing killed around 20 people, including the city’s deputy mayor and a lawmaker.

Growing reputation

“Her reputation is going up as she attracts many women in the phenomena of the so-called jihad,” said the intelligence officer.

Meanwhile, the U.N. envoy to Somalia warned on Tuesday that Al-Shabaab militants are expected to do everything they can to derail elections next year and urged military forces to prepare to respond to any sign the Islamist group is benefiting from its links to extremist groups in nearby Yemen.

Somalia has been trying to rebuild after establishing its first functioning central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a longtime dictator and turned on each other, plunging the impoverished nation into chaos. The country’s weak government is being supported by AU and Somali troops against the al-Shabaab insurgency.

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