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'White Widow' – the new face of terror

(London Telegraph) The woman in a full-length burka walked calmly into the drab government office. She moved close to the desk behind which an administrator was shuffling his papers. Others queued around her. Suddenly, without warning, she detonated the suicide vest she was wearing. The explosion flashed a brilliant white on the grainy CCTV before the cameras cut out, obliterating everything – and everyone – in the room.

I was shown this horrifying footage on a training course in advance of a trip to Helmand Province last year. The message was simple: there are no rules of engagement; the attacks can come at any time and from anyone. And the changing face of terrorism has become all too clear amid the rubble of Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall, where last Saturday al-Shabaab militants stormed the building and murdered at least 67 people of all creeds and colour (five of them British). The estimated 10 to 15 fighters reportedly killed hostages using guns, knives and bombs over the four-day siege.

Some witnesses have described a “pale-skinned woman” issuing orders and firing at hostages. In the chaos that has followed, nobody has been able to verify the claims. But what we do know is that British terrorist suspect Samantha Lewthwaite, a 29-year-old soldier’s daughter from Buckinghamshire, is now one of the most wanted women in the world.