- - Monday, February 2, 2015

Former Al-Shabaab commander Zakariye Ismail Hersi, who surrendered to Somali military forces last month, has come out with what he claims is information regarding the whereabouts of Samantha Lewthwaite, the infamous “White Widow.” Hersi claims that Lewthwaite, a key regional commander in Al-Shabaab, is hiding out in the Somali town of Ras Kamboni on the Kenyan border. Ras Kamboni has had thorough history of being connected to Al-Shabaab, even being used as a headquarters for the group though Somali intelligence appears to doubt the veracity of Hersi’s claims, Hersi hopes the information will get him a lesser sentence in return.

Samantha Lewthwaite first became known to the world at large when she was identified as the widow of Germaine Lindsay, who detonated himself in a London subway on July 7, 2005. Lewthwaite was later spotted on the run in Kenya with a fake South African passport shortly before the Westgate mall attack. Al-Shabaab posted a picture of a masked European woman holding a rifle on a now defunct website, along with a message praising Samantha Lewthwaite and her presence in their organization. Lewthwaite has played a role in recruiting and facilitating for the Somalia-based terror group. A co-conspirator, Jermaine Grant, was just this week acquitted on multiple criminal charges in a Kenyan court, but still faces charges of conspiracy to detonate an explosive. Mr. Grant reportedly tipped off the White Widow, enabling her to avoid capture only minutes before his arrest in December 2011.

Some early reports suggested that Samantha Lewthwaite was one of the Westgate Mall attackers, some claiming she was killed in the attack, but later investigation showed that she was not directly involved in the attack.

Lewthwaite has been the subject of numerous rumors, including false claims that she was killed in the Ukraine by a Russian sniper.

Sean MacCormac is a research analyst at the Center for Security Policy.

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