Nightly News   |  September 22, 2013

Kenyan government takes steps to end standoff

Kenyan officials have taken a more aggressive position against the terrorists. NBC’s Ron Allen reports.

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

>> good evening. loud explosions were heard tonight in the kenyan capital of nairobi where government troops are trying to end a bloody seize by terrorists at a popular shopping mall that has left at least 68 people dead. the well coordinated attack began yesterday when more than a dozen gunmen believed to be affiliated with the somali extremist group tossed hand grenades and sprayed gun fire on crowds of saturday shoppers. apparently targeting nonmuslims. as many as 30 people are still being held hostage but many others are rescued. the it passes the 35-hour mark. tonight we've learned the fbi is looking into claims that some of the attackers might be americans. nbc's ron allen is in nairobi and that's where we begin tonight. good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, lester. it has been a day or of sporadic battles between armed men and women still holed up in the mall behind me. there are also media reports indicating there could be as many as 30 hostages still trapped. everyone is being kept several hundred yards away from the mall for safety reasons. tonight there are indications that kenyan government is taking steps to bring all of this to an end. as evening fell, police in military helicopters flew low and slow over the besieged westgate mall . several explosions were heard. government troops could be seen moving into more aggressive positions. the government has insisted the militants have been contained inside the mall. but late today, the militant group linked to al qaeda that has claimed responsibility for the attack tweeted, kenyan forces tried to storm the building but failed miserably. the militants say they're attacking in retaliation for kenya sending troops into somalia where the fighters are from. based on tweets from the militant group claiming it has u.s. citizens in its ranks, the u.s. is looking into whether americans are involved in carrying out the attack. earlier, kenya 's president visited hospitals filled with the wounded where there is an urgent appeal for blood. and he personally shared the grief of the nation, revealing a nephew and his fiance died in the bloodshed.

>> these are young lovely people i personally knew and loved.

>> reporter: today president obama called him to express his condolences and support. and later, secretary of state john kerry added this.

>> it represents the seriousness and the he think breadth and the challenge we face with ruthless and completely reckless terrorists.

>> reporter: that as today, new video showing the terrifying attack in the mall was released. capturing the moment when gunmen burst into the crowded mall around noon saturday. the video shows shoppers fleeing for their lives during a hail of gunshots, lasting a period of several minutes. an american attorney who moved to kenya in july from north carolina says she hid from the gunmen for four hours.

>> you could hear while we were back there, the methodically ended up going from store to store, talking to people, asking questions, shooting, screams, and then it would stop for a while. and then it would go to another store.

>> reporter: tyler hicks , "the new york times" photographer who covers war zones and lives nearby raced to the mall when he saw the crowd trying to escape the mayhem.

>> it seemed like anywhere you looked there would be another body. terrified people were crying, screaming, running for their lives.

>> reporter: hopeful relatives and friends converged on the community center where they're trying to figure out what happened to the many still unaccounted for. u.s. officials say several american citizens were injured in the attack. and the wife of a retired u.s. diplomat was killed. she was not a u.s. citizen . meanwhile, the deadly stand-off here