As Kenyan authorities declared an end to the Nairobi shopping mall siege, conflicting reports have continued to emerge about the involvement of Aylesbury’s Samantha Lewthwaite in the attack,
Twitter accounts and other officials claiming to represent Al Shabaab, the Somali militant group that says it is responsible for the massacre, have given differing views on the former Grange pupil’s role.
The group was at one point reported to say there were no women involved in the attack, but it was later claimed through a Twitter account that Lewthwaite, known as the White Widow, had overseen the deadly operation.
Aylesbury has been mentioned around the world in countless reports of the incident at the Westgate complex, which began on Saturday, with media crews from Russia, America and France trying to track down her family in the town, along with the UK’s national press.
Particular focus has been on the home of Lewthwaite’s father, Andrew, who lives in Southcourt.
Photographers have been camped outside his semi-detached house and various media outlets have been reporting from the scene, as well as Northern Road, where Lewthwaite used to live with 7/7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay.
The Bucks Herald approached Mr Lewthwaite, but he declined to comment on the speculation surrounding his daughter, saying: “I don’t want to speak to anyone.”
On Monday night reports of Lewthwaite’s involvement in the attack were fuelled by comments from Kenya’s foreign minister, Amina Mohamed, who told PBS NewsHour a British woman was believed to be among the militant group, adding that she has ‘done this many times before’.
On Tuesday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta confirmed there were intelligence reports that one Briton was among the attackers.
There have also been claims a balaclava-clad white woman holding a gun was giving orders to the terrorists, as well as reports from the Reuters news agency that a white woman is among three militants killed when Kenyan forces stormed the shopping mall.
There has been no confirmation of the 29 year old mother-of-three’s involvement in the attack, but the Daily Mail claims a senior Kenyan anti-terror officer said: “We believe that she was involved in the attack.
“We cannot doubt the eyewitnesses who say they saw her commanding the attackers.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said of the claims about Lewthwaite: “We are aware of them and we are looking into them. We are not speculating about this.”
Lewthwaite, a Muslim convert, has been on the run since she was linked with a plot to blow up a shopping centre in Mombasa, Kenya’s second city, in 2011.
Iftekhar Bashir, president of the Aylesbury Mosque, was a teacher at the Grange when Lewthwaite was a student there but says he only knew her in passing.
Mr Bashir said: “If all this is true then it’s very sad to hear.”
Councillor Raj Khan, who knew Lewthwaite before the 7/7 attack, said people should not jump to conclusions.
Mr Khan said: “I’m worried that the picture that has been demonising her may be premature because it has not been substantiated. Unless there is hard evidence we should not just unnecessarily jump to conclusions. Whether she is part of this tragedy or not, we will remain as one community.”
Mr Khan described Lewthwaite as a ‘family friend’ before she disappeared.
He said: “She was an innocent young person.
“She would do anything to accommodate other people, she was a very good human being.
“She did everything to help others.
“I would not think for a moment that she could be the head of an international terrorist organisation.”