Dramatic new photos taken following the deadly siege at a Kenyan mall last week reveal more of the destruction Somali terrorists left in their wake after killing 67 people on what began as an ordinary day of shopping.
The powerful images from inside the Westgate mall in Nairobi, some obtained within the past 24 hours, are a distressing reminder of the violence that was let loose on the unsuspecting patrons when militants with the al Qaeda-affiliated terror group al Shabaab stormed the building.
The pictures, obtained by NBC News as part of a video of aftermath shots (above), show the mall's ruined structure, broken shop windows, a devastated cafe, convenience stores in utter disarray, a bank that looks like it's been through a war, and a food court that was the scene of a bloodbath.
It is unclear what portion of the damage seen in these photos was done during the actual siege and ensuing battles with machine guns and grenades, and how much may have been wrought by Kenyan security forces cleaning up afterwards. Mid last week, several explosions in the mall were attributed to bomb experts cleaning up IEDs left behind by the terrorists.
Last Wednesday, forensic investigators began a gruesome search of the wrecked mall, and questions still remain over who exactly was behind a deadly siege there and how it was ended by security forces.
The United States, Israel, Britain and Canada are among the countries helping Kenyan authorities identify those responsible for the four-day attack.
In a news conference Sunday, Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said that the death toll from the Sept 21 attack remained at 67, and that the Kenyan government believes that no hostages were left in the building.
Nine suspects were in custody over the attack, one of them arrested on Sunday, Lenku added. He declined to give any information about the suspected attackers or those arrested, saying "we do not discuss intelligence matters in public."
Five terrorists were also reportedly killed by security forces who put an end to the siege.
A photograph from within the Westgate after the attack by terrorists.
Meanwhile, a senior intelligence source told NBC News on Sunday that the U.S. intelligence community had some advance warning about the attack — that may have stood out from the constant terror chatter out of east Africa.
An early warning of this serious threat was picked up by NSA, the source said.
"There are several [threats] a month that are usually more on the credible side. What I don't know is the degree to which this one was more serious/credible than others. My early understanding is that NSA saw some things that made them particularly nervous," the source said.
Some Kenyan newspapers over the past two days have asserted that officials there had early warnings with very specific details, including possible dates of an attack that could involve hostage taking.
Kenya on Sunday also asked the U.S. government to lift an advisory warning U.S. citizens over travel to the east African country after the Sept. 21 Nairobi mall attack, calling it "unnecessary" and "unfriendly."
"We believe issuing the travel advisory is counter-productive in the fight against global terrorism," said Lenku, the interior minister. "We request the United States, as a friend of Kenya, to lift the travel advisory," he added.
NBC News' Robert Windrem and Richard Esposito, and Reuters contributed to this report
A picture taken inside the Westgate mall after the four-day siege.
First published September 29 2013, 11:54 AM