Westgate footage still chilling, one year later

Friday September 19 2014

This screen grab released on October 18, 2013 and taken from closed circuit television shows people crawling on the ground during the attack at the Westgate Mall on September 21, 2013.

Terror at the Mall, an HBO film based on the true events that happened on September 21, 2013, at the Westgate Mall, Nairobi, chronicles the tragic day when four Somali gunmen stormed the mall in the morning rush hour and went on a killing spree, leaving 67 people dead.

The ensuing stand-off with security personnel lasted 49 hours.

The film is produced and directed by Dan Reed, who is also its narrator. It features never before seen footage captured by more than 100 security cameras inside the mall. Reed has done a good job of putting the events in chronological order, and building the story around witness accounts from survivors and rescue teams.

The fact that some of the footage and still images featured in the HBO film were widely circulated in mainstream media and the Internet during and immediately after the terror attack, does not make it any less chilling.

It’s a brutal yet factual presentation that brings out the raw terror, carnage and heroism of that fateful day, most of it remained hidden from those outside the mall. It shows how the gunmen moved from shop to shop, corner to crevice, searching and killing their victims in cold blood.

This film is definitely not for the faint of heart. It is also not meant for entertainment as it does not attempt to gloss over the gory events that took place that day. There is no blurring of images and the emotion is as raw as it gets.


One regrettable fact that comes out clearly is the sheer ineptitude of the security forces. It took a whole three and a half hours after the shooting started for the armed forces to actually get into the mall, at which point it was too late to save anyone.

Were it not for the courageous efforts of plainclothes police and a handful of community security personnel who were basically armed civilians, many more people would have been slaughtered that day.

However, amid all the death and destruction there were acts of heroism and selflessness by ordinary people in the face of danger.

Ethnic and class distinctions were forgotten as both the victims of the terror attack and rescuers reached out to the wounded and the vulnerable, at times risking their own lives.

The film premiered in the US on September 8, and is now available on YouTube where it has already been viewed by thousands of people around the world.

The film, without directly asking questions, seeks to get government security to step back and ask what it could have done differently to save more lives.