Terror at the Mall: Why Civilian Operators Matter



I just finished watching the HBO documentary “Terror at the Mall” about the Nairobi Kenya Westgate Mall Attack last year by Al-Shabaab Terrorist that left 67 dead and 155 wounded. Almost all of the documentary is CCTV footage from that day narrated by the actual survivors. There is also some awesome LIVE video and photographs taken that day by two combat correspondents (Tyler Hicks and Goran Tomasevic) who happened to be near the mall that day and after donning a kevlar vest and helmet, decided to jump right into the middle of the action. Because of these two journalist’ bravery and daring, you get a real sense of what was happening that day from a first person Point-of-View.

I must be honest with you, while watching this film, something in me clicked. When I started seeing all the wounded and dead, including women and young children, and nobody DOING ANYTHING,  I started to get really pissed off. All of the so-called “Police SWAT” and Military personnel (or what passes for Police SWAT and Military in Kenya I should say), were standing around outside, taking cover behind concrete walls and basically pissing themselves. The friggin’ Red Cross people had more balls than these guys! They went up on the top deck without any police protection, as they were told there were many wounded children up there.  After an hour had passed, The ONLY ACTION AND RESPONSE came from 5 plain clothed policeman with AK’s and 2 civilians armed with registered handguns...INITIALLY THESE WERE THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO HAD THE BALLS TO GO IN AND TRY TO SAVE LIVES…the so-called Police SWAT and Military would not enter the mall until 3 Hours into the siege!

 Both of these civilians, Harish Patel, an Airport Worker and Abdul Haji, a Real Estate Executive, demonstrate the true spirit of what it is to be a Civilian Operator.

Here is a direct quote from Harish Patel from the HBO Documentary:

“Whoever has the balls, we go in, the rest, stay. If we have to die, we die.

Here in this quote, Abdul Haji reiterates why it is important to STAY ARMED!  Read what he told ABC News:

“Haji says he grew up around guns and lately had been carrying his pistol with him. “I left where I was and I headed straight to the Westgate,” Haji told ABC News. “Luckily on that particular day I had actually carried my licensed gun with me so I didn’t have to go back home to waste time and pick up a gun, I went straight to the mall.”

Here, in the same interview, Haji shows the Combative Mentality a CO has to have in a situation like this:

“I had 14 rounds (in my pistol)..it never crossed my mind that we (the civilians) only had handguns and the terrorist had assault rifles..A gun is a gun and at the end of the day it is how good you are with it that makes a difference….”



Not mentioned in the Documentary, was another civilian who was just as key in helping to save lives that day. A nameless and anonymous (for obvious security reasons) Ex-British Royal Marine, who, with a pistol tucked in his waistband, led over a hundred people to safety out of the mall, despite the obvious danger from sporadic gunfire.


So ultimately what can we take away from this senseless, awful, shitty mess?

First and foremost,as I have always said, the CO can never count for somebody to come and “rescue or save” them when an incident like this occurs. Now I understand our Police here in America are better trained and motivated for the most part, and a comparison to the Kenyan Forces may be unfair, but the message of self-reliance to the CO remains the same: Anytime you put your safety and the safety and security of your loved ones in another’s hands, you are rolling the “cosmic dice” with their lives.

What really gets me about this story  is the complete  lack of urgency by the so called Police “SWAT” and “Counter-Terrorist” units of the Military; both of them waiting THREE HOURS before entering the Mall, when they knew they had wounded, bleeding out civilians in there! And whats worse is when they did enter, according to hostage testimony, they FIRED INDISCRIMINATELY upon hostages several times who were trying to signal them for rescue! Luckily, no hostages were harmed by these idiots, but they did end up shooting and wounding three Policeman who were working with them, one of them, fatally. In the end, After 4 days of futility,  the Military and Police decided to do away with a ground assault (even though they had over 500 men at their disposal with Armored Personnel Carriers and Helicopter support against only FOUR Terrorist) and fired an Incendiary Artillery round into the supermarket area of the mall where the terrorist were hiding, burning the entire mall to the ground, causing massive property damage and killing all the terrorist along with it. Talk about using a Bazooka to kill a mouse.



Bottom line guys, It was the bravery and fortitude of these 3 civilians and 5 plainclothes police officers that saved ALL of the people who survived that day in Nairobi. Believe me when I say this: In the world we currently live in, being a civilian operator WILL save lives one day, maybe, even including your own! Think about that every time you go out to train! Think about that the next time you question spending money on quality firearms and tactical training!

I know what a lot of you are saying: I Just don’t know if I could be as BRAVE as those 3 civilians were if something like that happened to me..to that I say this: “Doing alot of things can get you killed in this life, including in this case, doing nothing!

Stay Armed, Stay Alert and Stay Dangerous!