While the Westgate terrorist siege in Kenya propelled terrorist group Al Shabaab and, to a lesser extent, the Muslim Youth Centre (MYC) back onto the global scene, the alleged involvement of Samantha Lewthwaite, the “White Widow”, has seemingly shocked both media and audiences internationally.
A convert to Islam at the age 15, Lewthwaite married Germaine Lindsay in 2002. Born in Jamaica and also a convert to Islam, Lindsay is known for his role as one of four 7/7 London bombers. Currently suspected as a ringleader in the Westgate plot, Lewthwaite has suspected links to Al Shabaab and is wanted in Kenya over terrorism-linked charges.
While the shock of the involvement of a female terrorist has made headlines around the world, females engaging in acts of politically motivated violence is not a new, or rare, phenomenon. In fact, there is an array of examples internationally of acts carried out by females – notably including the assassination of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi by Tamil Tiger suicide bomber Thenmozhi “Gayatri” Rajaratnam in 1991.
Females are often utilised by terrorist organisations for specific functions. However, why females become terrorists is often overlooked and can differ from their male counterparts.