Samantha Lewthwaite, the ‘world’s most wanted woman’ received British and South African passports in 2011 in months before she went on run.
Britain and South Africa both issued new passports to Samantha Lewthwaite in the months before she went on the run, having been linked to a terrorist plot, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.
Lewthwaite, the widow of the one of the July 7 suicide bombers and now dubbed the “world’s most wanted woman”, received a new British passport in Feb 2011 from the British High Commission in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria.
Days earlier, on Jan 31, 2011, Lewthwaite had also been given a South African passport in the name of Natalie Faye Webb, a nurse then living in Essex whose identity she allegedly stole.
Naledi Pandor, the South African home affairs minister, insisted that this document was cancelled “in Feb 2011” and placed on an Interpol “stop list”.
That should have alerted all 192 members of Interpol to detain anyone found carrying the passport.
Instead, the Kenyan authorities gave Lewthwaite new tourist visas – or renewed old ones – on five separate occasions: Feb 26, March 28, May 3, Aug 25 and Nov 21. All these stamps were placed in the supposedly cancelled South African passport.
The last visa was issued a full nine months after the Interpol alert – and just weeks before Lewthwaite went on the run in Dec 2011. By then, she is suspected of being a key member of a terrorist cell with safe houses in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, and its main coastal city, Mombasa, which was allegedly planning Christmas bomb attacks on hotels and shopping centres.
Lewthwaite has now evaded arrest for almost two years. She was recently named in connection with the Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi that killed 67 people, including six Britons, last month.
“This clearly points to a failure not just of intergovernmental collaboration in Africa, but also of collaboration between international organisations,” said Valentina Soria, a security analyst at IHS Jane’s, a security consultancy in London.
“It also shows that the British authorities missed some very important pieces of information – intelligence that would have shown she had become involved in terrorist activities, that she was joining with known terrorists in East Africa.”
Kenyan police questioned Lewthwaite in Dec 2011, but were satisfied she was a genuine South African tourist when she showed them the cancelled passport that was the subject of the Interpol alert 10 months earlier.
The British authorities knew that Lewthwaite was of potential interest to the security services at the time when her new UK passport was issued in Feb 2011, a Government source said. No explanation was given for why she was granted the document.
Whether she used the new British passport to travel in 2011 is not known. It may have been issued under her Muslim name, Asmaa Bint-Andrews, which she gave when she gave birth to her third child in Britain in 2009.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We do not routinely comment on individuals nor on security matters”.
See on www.telegraph.co.uk