By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, September 24, 2005
LONDON, Sept. 23 -- The widow of a bomber who killed himself and 26 other people on a London subway car on July 7 described her husband as a "naive" man whose "mind was twisted" during months of visits to radical Islamic mosques in Britain, a London newspaper reported Friday.
"How these people could have turned him and poisoned his mind is dreadful," Samantha Lewthwaite, 21, widow of bomber Germaine Lindsay, told the Sun newspaper. "He was an innocent, naive and simple man. I supposed he must have been an ideal candidate."
Also Friday, a British Muslim was convicted of terrorist offenses and sentenced to 15 years in prison in a case officials have linked to the al Qaeda network. Andrew Rowe, 34, described by the judge in court as a "paid operative" of Islamic radicals, was convicted of two counts of possessing items useful to terrorists.
Rowe, a convert to Islam, was arrested in October 2003 near the English Channel tunnel in France as he was returning home to London on a bus from Germany. Police said a later search of his estranged wife's home in England turned up notebooks containing codes and notes in Rowe's handwriting detailing how to fire mortars, as well as videotapes glorifying the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, including one made by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
"Whatever your terrorist purpose was, its fulfillment was imminent," the judge said, according to the BBC. "In the post 9/11 world, it requires no imagination to understand what would have been in your contemplation and what would have been your purpose."
Lewthwaite's comments were the most extensive by family members of the four presumed bombers since they struck three subway cars and a double-decker city bus on July 7, killing themselves and 52 other people. The attack, which also injured 700, and a similar but failed attack two weeks later led Prime Minister Tony Blair to order a crackdown on religious extremism in Britain.
Lewthwaite said she and Lindsay, 19, were recent converts to Islam. She is the daughter of a British army officer and was born in Northern Ireland; he was born in Jamaica and moved to Britain with his mother when he was six months old. She said they were married in October 2002 and he had once considered becoming a human rights lawyer.
She said that last fall he began frequenting mosques in London and the city of Luton, where "he met a group who changed his life. He became a man I didn't recognize."
Lewthwaite said her husband had always opposed British policies in Iraq and the Middle East, but she was shocked that he had turned to violence. "He was so angry when he saw Muslim civilians being killed on the streets of Iraq, Bosnia, Palestine and Israel, and always said it was the innocent who suffered," she said. "Then he is responsible for doing the same thing -- but to his fellow British people."
She said she had thrown him out of their home the night before the bombings because his secretive behavior made her suspect he was having an affair. He came back later and went into the room of their infant son Abdullah, she said.
"He kissed our child goodbye and then crept off to blow up King's Cross," she said. "In the morning I found he'd left the keys on a table downstairs. He obviously had no more use for them."
She was eight months pregnant when Lindsay died and later gave birth to a daughter.
Also on Friday, Manchester airport was shut down briefly when police using Taser stun guns arrested a man carrying a suspicious package who had walked into an area where planes were parked. An army bomb disposal unit carried out a controlled explosion of the package, but authorities reported finding nothing dangerous inside. The man, who the BBC said was of Asian appearance and understood little English, was held under Britain's anti-terrorism laws.