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Mysterious 'white widow' eludes police in Africa

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AYLESBURY, England (AP) -- She is called the most wanted woman in the world, a suspected terrorist charged with plotting to blow up resort hotels in Kenya packed with Christmas tourists, a Westerner who wrote an ode praising Osama bin Laden, a jihadist who has eluded the law even as she has traveled through Africa with four young children in tow.

Samantha Lewthwaite's saga is one of betrayal and revenge in a murky world where, somehow, a white woman born to a British soldier becomes a Muslim convert and then an international fugitive accused of conspiracy.

Her first husband blew himself up as part of Britain's worst ever terrorist attack in 2005, an act she first condemned - and her second partner adhered to the same militant brand of Islam and also apparently met an early death. Her notebooks, seized in 2011, are filled with lavish praise for extremists who slaughter civilians and hopes that her children will do the same.

And yet, since she disappeared some months after the London bombing, no one can say how the "white widow" became radicalized, moving from mainstream Islam to a "holy war" against the West - or why she would embrace a movement that denies a woman's right to education and other basic liberties.

"That is the mystery," said Niknam Hussain, a community organizer and former Aylesbury mayor. There was never a hint that Lewthwaite had chosen jihad during her years in Aylesbury, the small English city 40 miles (65 kilometers) northwest of London where she grew up.

"What was the journey from there to here?" asked Hussain. "I don't think you wake up radical. One is educated, inculcated, pulled into it. This is a small community. One would hope that if anything unusual was going on someone somewhere would have noticed it. No one seems able to paint a picture of what happened. What is her role? What does she do?

"We're at a loss."

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