Probe into ‘White Widow’ passport ongoing

South African authorities are still investigating how a local passport was obtained by Samantha Lewthwaite, the British woman sought by Interpol since the September mall shootings in Nairobi, ministers said on Sunday.

"We are continuing our investigations and once we are ready we will make a statement," Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor said at a media briefing by Cabinet's justice and security cluster in Pretoria.

She added that in the meantime, authorities have "improved on the security with respect to our passport".

This included "checking biometric links as to the background of people who present themselves at our offices".

State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele said he wanted to assure South Africans that the country was not at risk of being destabilised by terrorist groups.

Lewthwaite, also dubbed the 'White Widow' by foreign media, travelled for years on a South African passport which was not forged but issued to her in the name of Natalie Faye Webb by the home affairs department.

It was not clear yet whether there had been any link between Lewthwaite and Webb or whether the latter was merely a victim of identity theft.

Interpol issued a wanted persons alert on Lewthwaite in late September after the attack on Nairobi's Westgate mall by suspected al-Shabaab militants killed 72 people.

Lewthwaite, also believed to use the Webb alias, is the widow of Germaine Lindsay, one of the bombers who carried out attacks on public transport in London in July 2005.

She entered South Africa on a South African passport in 2008, and used it until 2011.

This has raised fears that a diplomatic impasse between Pretoria and London about strict visa requirements for South Africans is set to continue .-–Sapa


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