Alex Witt | September 21, 2013
>>> hello, everyone. high noon in the east, 9:00 a.m . out west. welcome to "weekends with alex witt ." breaking news in the capital of kenya . gunmen republican artillery stormed a very popular shopping mall opening fire, throwing what could be grenades. this all happened in broad daylight just a 0 short while ago in the capital city of nairobi . red cross officials say as many as 22 people have been killed, several others wounded in this attack in kenya 's largest city.
>> i went up and they came to -- some police rescued us.
>> nbc's duncan golestani is in london for us. we had differing reports earlier today but terrorist attack versus a robbery. what are you hearing?
>> hi, alex . the nairobi police chief has said they are treating this as a terrorist attack . and that seems to be supported by some of the eyewitness accounts coming out of the kenyan capital. one shop ter saying the attackers entered the mall and they were shooting indiscriminately. another witness quotes it on the news said the gunmen were targeting non-muslims. the operation to make them all safe has been continuing over the last few hours with gunfire coming from the area. kenyan police and soldiers have surrounded the mall and are reported to be hunting down the attackers, moving through the buildings shop by shop. some local television stations have been reporting the hostages have been taken but that has not been confirmed. it is thought people are still inside though, and that, of course, is going to affect how the operation is handled. a lot of the information coming out of nairobi is conflicting, as you said. but if this is a terrorist attack , suspicion is already falling on the militant islamist group al shabab . that group controls vast parts of neighboring south somalia. kenya sent troops there two years ago to fight islamic insurgents and has been suffering retaliation ever since but nothing on this scale. we should say no terrorist group has claimed responsibility at the moment. alex ?
>> with regard to hostages, we've heard varying reports here. i mean, this is a very popular mall, right? and this is kind of mall that definitely targets the upscale. so the likelihood when you talk about the number of gunmen that are reportedly inside, is common sense saying this is a robbery or something more sinister?
>> every indication seems to be going towards this being a terrorist attack because of these eyewitness accounts saying they were shooting indiscriminately because they seemed to be targeting non-muslims. the west gaest mall in nairobi is very popular with westerners and ex-pats who live there. it has many western shops like nike and israeli owned. in the past security officials have identified that particular mall as a likely terror target in the city. al shabab have previously threatened to launch attacks on nairobi 's tower blocks and other popular sites with westerners such as nightclubs and hotels. sew far they have failed to do so. alex ?
>> let's talk about the people that frequent in mall and its proximity to any embassies. how close is it? what is the likelihood that people are going to be shopping? assets a saturday, people from those embassies.
>> yeah, it's a saturday. all reports copping out saying it was very busy. it's one of those kind of malls as well as having the shops it's got cinemas and calf tier "yaz." so lots of people in there. and as you say, it is popular with the well heeled with the ex-pat community which is likely to be ndong as well as people that are working for corporations in kenya , people that work with the embassies, work perhaps with charities and ngos in kenya because although there are threats in kenya , kenya ask one of the safer countries in that particular part of africa. so although there is security and there are security on the doors of the west gate mall, it's not thought to have a been a particular target.
>> okay. duncan golestani in london, thank you very much for the late breaking developments. from