Nightly News   |  September 26, 2013

How big a threat is al Shabaab?

Loud explosions were heard at the Kenya mall as investigators cleared IEDs left behind from the terror attack. New pictures show the mall’s parking structure in ruins, still smoldering. Meanwhile, there is intense speculation about the “white widow.” NBC’s Ron Allen reports.

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>>> now arrive uhhuh in force. dozens are on the scene of the massacre in nairobi , kenya . the troubles news today. another attack in kenya . this one killed two police officers and the worry here, obviously, is this terrorist group al shabaab is making it known that they are on the rise. and there's been an international arrest warrant issued for a british woman with a nickname out of a spy novel . she's known as the white widow . officials say they want to know of any involvement she might have had in what happened in kenya . we begin again tonight with nbc's ron allen in nairobi where there's been some activity tonight, i understand, ron.

>> reporter: indeed, brian. good evening. tonight we heard several loud explosions and saw fire at the mall site down the road behind me there. investigators say it is the hard work of clearing away ieds, bombs and explosives the militants left behind . the devastation of the west gate mall up close. new pictures today show the parking structure in ruins, still smoldering. what caused this much damage? authorities aren't saying. meanwhile intense speculation about this woman, samantha lewthwaite of britain, once married to a london subway bomber. she's known as the white widow . she may now be the most wanted woman in the world. today at kenya 's request interpol issued a warrant for her arrest. in connection with a 2011 plot to bomb targets in ten i can't. no known connection to the mall attack but unconfirmed reports of a white woman among the gunmen. in kenya near the somalia border, another attack. two kenyan police officers killed. al shabaab again claiming responsibility. while at the mall itself investigators, including fbi agents , looked for clues, trying to piece together exactly what happened here.

>> this program has learned from multiple sources the identities of two of the attackers.

>> reporter: tonight a british tv report says a former kenyan special forces soldier, also a convert to islam, linked to al shabaab , led the assault. how big a threat is al shabaab ?

>> groups like al shabaab are the new face of al qaeda . the attack we saw in nairobi represent s the worst face. what we have to make sure is that the threats re main regionally focused and not towards the west and the united states .

>> reporter: al shabaab has claimed some americans participated in the mall attack, but there's been no evidence of that so far.

>> we don't have any verifiable information that would indicate one way or the other whether any americans were involved.

>> reporter: as the questions pile up, kenya 's grief continues. there were multiple funerals again today. as people here found comfort in stories of survival uh and powerful images of heroic rescues and lives saved. tonight there is more late-breaking information regarding the case involving the so-called white widow . nbc news has learned british authorities are seeking dna samples from members of her family as the investigation moves forward. brian?

>> ron allen starting us off again from nairobi , kenya . thanks.