Magazine article The Spectator

Television: James Delingpole

Magazine article The Spectator

Television: James Delingpole

Article excerpt

So you've just popped down to the supermarket for the weekly shop, toddlers in tow, when the grenades start to fly, the air lights up with tracer bullets and you realise to your horror that unless you find a suitable hiding place in a matter of seconds these are the last moments you'll spend with your kids on earth.

This was the awful crisis that faced Amber Prior and her children, who were among the numerous innocents caught up in the al-Shabaab suicide attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, last year. Their tale was told in the BBC2 documentary Terror at the Mall , and I make no apologies for reviewing it late because it is surely one of the most gripping and important pieces of television any of us are likely to see this year.

What made it so remarkable is that it's the first major terrorist atrocity to have been caught in detail on camera from the beginning almost to the very end. Yes of course, parts of 9/11 were televised too. But we only saw the view from outside. The Westgate mall attack, on the other hand, owing to the nature of its location, was captured from numerous different angles on the closed-circuit TV cameras dotted all over the interior. As various eye witnesses recalled what had happened, we were shown the footage with an arrow helpfully pointing out who was who.


It began with a scene we can all identify with: shoppers wandering distractedly up and down the aisles, probably thinking about tonight's supper and whether there's anything they left off the list; shoppers peering into the windows of various mall retail outlets; shoppers rewarding themselves with a breather in sundry pleasant outdoor cafés.

Then suddenly all hell breaks loose in one of the cafés: people leaping headlong through the air; people diving; people crawling, some of them very clearly injured by the blast of the first grenades -- among them a beautiful South Korean woman called Moon Hee Kang, who seconds earlier had been enjoying a hamburger in the Kenyan sun with her British husband Niall.

Meanwhile, in the supermarket, quotidian normality turns in an instant to desperate panic. Everyone's running -- they've all heard the explosions and the gunfire -- but where to go? …

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