TRAC profile says White Widow is Powerless Within Al Shaabab

Terrorism resource explores the lore of Samantha Lewthwaite

WASHINGTON, DC – October 25, 2013 -- A new profile of suspected terrorist Samantha Lewthwaite (a.k.a. the White Widow) in Terrorism Research Analysis Consortium (TRAC) bucks popular opinion that she is a powerful force within the al Shabaab organization. Lewthwaite has been thrust back into the spotlight in recent weeks as rumors have circulated that she was present during September’s Westgate Mall attack in Kenya and that she is spearheading a plot to blow up the United Nations offices in Nairobi. TRAC reports that neither of these allegations has been proven accurate and that the notoriety Lewthwaite has gained from international press coverage now makes her unable to carry out any of jobs she previously performed for al Shabaab. 

“Larger than life outside Somalia, Samantha Lewthwaite has been credited with being everything from a high-level advisor to Ahmed Abdi Godane, the powerful al Shabaab leader, to running her own elite all-female suicide bombing squad, to master financier,” says TRAC Editorial Director Veryan Khan. “Thus far, none of these designations have been proven accurate. TRAC’s opinion is that Lewthwaite is not now and has never has been a powerful operative and the attention she draws only distracts from exploring legitimate dangers of al Shabaab.”

TRAC’s profile entitled “The Lore of Lewthwaite” explores the fact and fiction of the life of the woman dubbed by the British press as the “White Widow.” Lewthwaite has been the source of speculation since she captured attention as the innocent wife of suicide bomber Germaine Lindsay, responsible for the London Underground and Bus Bombings in July 2005. “Because she successfully duped the collective and compassionate British public, she has come to represent the mystery of Islamic terrorism, leading the world’s press to almost obsession in following her life and creating a legend in the process,” says Ms. Khan.

TRAC consults multiple global sources, including embedded analysts and reporters to construct its profiles. Its findings: Lewthwaite’s confirmed past roles were in using fake passports to rent apartments, buy supplies and transact international money transfers. Now easily recognized even with a headscarf, she is no longer able to carry out these duties. “At this point, the only significance she brings to al Shabaab is the caché that the press anoints her that might appeal to potential Western recruits,” says Ms. Khan.

The Lore of Lewthwaite” is currently available as an open access document within TRAC’s digital research center. Through TRAC, researchers connect to information for more than 4,200 groups and individuals, making it one of the largest unclassified repositories of data about terrorist activities. Profiles are cross-referenced and linked so users can quickly identify individuals’ and groups’ locations, ideology, targets, and tactics, and then be directed to sources of expanded data, enabling deep analysis.

TRAC debuted in February 2012 after eight years in development. Immediately commended for its breadth of content – described by Library Journal as “astonishing” and honored as a 2012 Best Reference – TRAC provides historical context side-by-side with a current intelligence repository generated by 2,200 specialists and a real-time news feed that reports on events as they occur. In addition to profiles, its expanding content includes commissioned analyses of key issues and events, as well as links to more than 2900 think tanks, universities, government agencies and other resources studying terrorism. The content is interconnected and easily navigated through hyperlinks and cross-references. Reviewed and recommended by Choice as “an excellent, easy-to-use, interdisciplinary resource for novice or experienced researchers,” TRAC was described as “useful to students and scholars in fields ranging from criminal justice and history to political science and sociology.”

Interviews with TRAC’s experts can be arranged through TRAC’s media office. Follow TRAC on twitter (@TRACTerrorism) to stay up to date on important, but often missed news in this dynamic area. To learn more about TRAC visit

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