Alex Witt   |  September 22, 2013

'Haunted scene' at Kenya mall says AP reporter

AP Reporter Jason Straziuso speaks with MSNBC’s Alex Witt about the phone call that his wife received from friends who were inside the mall that was attacked in Nairobi, Kenya. The Islamist militant group Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> welcome back to "weekends with alex witt ." we're goinging to took baa our developing story, the deadly terrorist attack and the ongoing hostage situation at a mall in nairobi, kenya . the death toll stands at 59 with as many as 175 people wounded. the terrorist group al shabab has claimed responsibility with the gunmen still holding people hostage. while the carnage unfolded inside and around the mall, one woman trapped inside with her family nowhere in sight placed a frantic phone call to a reporter with the associated press. and joining me now, jason straziuso, the a.p. reporter whom she called on the phone. jason , with a welcome, i understand this woman who called you was staying the weekend with your family. so what was the reaction when you and your wife got this call?

>> yes, this couple are very close friends of ours. and actually, i was watching my wife as she took the call. and i don't know if you've ever seen horror spread across somebody's face, but that's what i saw. my wife said "just stay low and get down to the ground." and when someone says that you know they're not in a very good situation.

>> so when you rushed to the scene, jason , what did you see?

>> i got there maybe ten minutes after the grenades started going off. so it was still somewhat normal. people were in the parking lot. the gunmen had fired on cars driving through the mall. so there were cars with their doors open and bodies hanging out. it was very -- a haunted -- a haunted scene that you're walking right through.

>> i can imagine. actually, i can't, to be honest. but this woman who is your family friend, her husband and little girl were apparently inside the mall as the attacks unfolded. what did they tell you about how they survived? could they describe any of the attackers? did they see them?

>> my friends did not see the attackers. and i'm thankful for that. i talked to other people who did. but my friends were texting me and they were calling me during the three hours that they were stuck inside. and they were talking about how they could hear gunfire. they didn't know where the gunmen were. they didn't know if security officials knew where the civilian hostages for lack of a better word were. and they were just trying to -- lindsay , the female friend, was in the movie theater , and she said she was a sitting duck and then they fled to the roof, and then she said she was a sitting duck up there too. so she was just scared and frantic and seeking help.

>> a sitting duck , but also this roof incident, apparently lindsay told you that a police officer whom she approached to get some help didn't really seem to care. and even further, you talk about policemen shooting at civilians on the roof in your report.

>> yeah. that's right. when they were on the roof, one of the hostages, one of the civilians stuck their head over and a bullet came up and lindsay said it was lodged in the wall. that probably came from police. the policemen who feared that a gunman was on top. the initial moments of any attack like this are just filled with confusion. and frankly, kenya 's best security forces aren't on the scene first. it's beat cops who are walking because they don't have any cars who arrive on scene first. and that's not kenya 's best men.

>> yeah. it's incredible, actually. i heard they weren't able to get to the scene until 30 minutes later because they are on foot. quickly, jason , lindsay , her husband, her daughter, how are they today?

>> well, they spent the night with us again last night. and the little girl woke up and was playing on a swing set with my daughter and playing in the toy room. she seems to be fine. nick is powering through. lindsay 's a little bit shaken up still, i can tell. but i think all three of them are going to be fine in the end.

>> okay. glad to hear it. jason straziu. and o, thanks