Alex Witt   |  September 29, 2013

US intel had early warning of Kenya attack

NBC’s Atia Abawi talks to MSNBC’s Alex Witt about how U.S. and Kenyan officials had prior knowledge of the terrorist attack on Kenya and how Kenyan officials now say that the U.S. is hurting the Kenyan economy by issuing a travel warning.

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

>>> meantime, developing news to share on last week's terror attack in kenya . nbc news can report that u.s. intelligence had early warning signs of a serious terrorist threat. joining me now from nairobi, nbc's atia abawi. what sort of intelligence are we talking about?

>> reporter: hi there, alex . there are reports that colleagues in washington were able to speak to a senior intelligence official that said the nsa may have had prior knowledge to a terror attack in kenya . that said, there are terror threats that come through on a weekly, if not daily basis. this official said this warning stood out from the normal drum beat of warnings that have come in. we should also mention the local media is reporting on a leaked dossier from the national intelligence service here in kenya that stated the kenyan government may have known in january that al shabaab may have been planning to plan out a terror attack inside of kenya . also, in that same dossier, it said the israeli government had given warning to the kenyan government that they believed terrorists would target israeli owned and operated buildings inside of kenya anywhere from september 4th through september 28th . so right now many kenyans wondering why their government didn't do anything or if they were able to know if it was actually going to happen at westgate mall or if it was more of a broad warning. alex ?

>> yeah, and interestingly, atia , the kenyan interior minister held that press conference this morning where there was news from that. also, harsh words for the u.s. what did he say along those lines?

>> reporter: there was some harsh words for the u.s. right now he said, quote, that a travel warning that the u.s. issued for kenya was unfriendly, counterproductive, and the fight against global terrorism. kenyans obviously relying on tourist dollars from europeans and americans . they fear that by the government stating this travel warning that more and more americans will fear coming to kenya . they don't want americans or in tourists to tifear kenya . he said the u.s. knows what terrorism is. the u.s. has faced it themselves and they should not be unfriendly to kenya .

>> also, we got word of some heartbreaking scenes earlier today. people who were in the mall going back to retrieve some of their belongings that were left behind in that panic. what was that like?

>> reporter: well, the last couple of days, alex , we've actually seen kenyans , citizens of nairobi going back, picking up their cars, if their cars survived the large collapse of the parking garage by that mall. it's been sad, really, to see them go in. it must be frightening. we haven't been able to talk to them to get their feelings on how it felt, but also shopkeepers going inside the mall trying to look at their shops. one jewelry store unfortunately, there's been looting going on. 90% of her jewelry was taken. they believe it may have been done by the kenyan defense forces .

>> adding insult to injury there. atia abawi, thank you so much.