Kenyan authorities arrest eight in wake of Nairobi attack
Interpol issues alert for ‘White Widow’ at Kenya’s request
The Kenyan authorities are holding eight people in connection with the major weekend attack on a Nairobi shopping mall, while three others who had been held have now been released, the interior minister said today.
Joseph Ole Lenku also told a news briefing there were no formal reports of people still missing since the attack. The Kenyan Red Cross had previously said dozens were still missing.
He said the death toll remained at 67 civilians and members of the security forces. In addition, officials have also previously said five attackers were killed.
It comes after a worldwide alert was issued for the arrest of the Northern Irish terror suspect dubbed the “White Widow”.
The “Red Notice” for the arrest of Samantha Lewthwaite — who was married to one of the perpetrators of the London bombings on July 7th 2005 — was issued by Interpol at the request of the Kenyan authorities.
It relates to charges of possessing explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony dating back to December 2011, and it makes no mention of the Nairobi shopping mall attack, despite intense speculation linking her to the incident.
A Red Notice — or internationally wanted persons alert — notifies police forces around the world that an individual is wanted by an Interpol member state and requests the suspect is placed under provisional arrest pending extradition.
Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble said: “By requesting an Interpol Red Notice, Kenya has activated a global ‘tripwire’ for this fugitive.
“Through the Interpol Red Notice, Kenyan authorities have ensured that all 190 member countries are aware of the danger posed by this woman, not just across the region but also worldwide.”
Ms Lewthwaite — who is believed to use the alias “Natalie Webb” — had previously only been wanted by the Kenyans at national level for the possession of a fraudulently obtained South African passport.
The 29-year-old, who converted to Islam as a teenager, was married to Jermaine Lindsay, one of the four suicide bombers who carried out the July 7th attacks in London in 2005.
Initially she said she was horrified by the the attack, but in 2009 she disappeared with her three children and for the past two years has been on the run in East Africa after allegedly plotting to attack western targets in Kenya.
Reports that one of the al-Qaeda linked militants who carried out the Westgate attack was a woman has prompted intense speculation that she was involved.
Al-Shabab, the Somali group responsible, has denied the claims but the Kenyan authorities have said forensic experts are working to establish if any of the attackers was female after receiving intelligence that a British woman was involved.
Mr Noble said her case highlighted the “invisible threat’” posed by terrorists and criminals travelling internationally using illicit passports.
“Every year hundreds of millions of individuals are boarding international transport and crossing borders without having the authenticity of their travel or identity document checked,” he said.
“This dramatically compromises our ability to effectively screen and identify at airports and land crossings those individuals who could be suspected criminals and terrorists.”
Earlier, the Foreign Office said the number of Britons killed in the attack on the Westgate shopping mall attack has been revised down from six to five.
A spokeswoman said one of the victims previously thought to have been a UK national was now known to be Kenyan.
However, she warned that the casualty figure could still rise further as the authorities continue to comb the scene.
“We can now confirm that on present information five British nationals have been killed in the recent terror attacks in Nairobi,” she said.
“One individual previously thought to be British is a Kenyan national. Our thoughts are with his family and with the friends and family of all of those who have died during this difficult time.
“We have no information at this time that any further British nationals have been killed, although we cannot rule out the potential for further British casualties and we continue to stay in close contact with the Kenyan authorities as their investigations continue.”
The death toll from the attack is expected to rise from 67 — including 61 civilians and six members of the Kenyan security forces — as the Kenyan authorities scour the wreckage of the mall.
Five terrorists also died in the four-day stand-off and the Kenyans say they are holding 11 suspects in custody in relation to the attack — including at least seven who are thought to have been arrested at the airport.
International forensic experts, including teams from Scotland Yard, the United States, Israel, Germany and Canada, are helping sift through the debris for clues.