TODAY   |  September 25, 2013

Mall survivor: I was rescued by American security forces

Bendita Malakia, a 30-year old World Bank employee, said she was certain she was rescued from Kenya’s Westgate mall siege -- where there was gunfire and even grenades -- by American security forces who led her out to safety. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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

>>> meanwhile, some of the americans that were in the mall have started to return home after the terrifying ordeal. tom costello caught up with one of them who is now back home in washington. tom, good morning to you.

>> good morning. she is a 30-year-old harvard educated lawyer working for the world bank who went to the mall on saturday and is grateful to be home and alive.

>> you're safe, baby. you're safe.

>> reporter: overwhelmed we motion, back in her parent's arms.

>> i love you too baby.

>> reporter: for her mother, the last few days of waiting have been one never ending nightmare.

>> i could have lost you.

>> reporter: working for the world bank , she had only been in kenya since july. on saturday, she was meeting a business colleague at the westgate mall for lunch when teams of terrorists suddenly began attacking.

>> people are screaming. lots of running. you hear gunshots or explosions. it's complete chaos.

>> reporter: desperate to get away, she and her friend crawled into a home furnishing store and hid with 15 other people in a back room. they could hear the terrorists just one floor above.

>> i could hear more machine guns and shooting in the background. that's when i realized this was a serious situation.

>> reporter: after more than five hours she says out of nowhere a security team showed up looking for her and her colleague. she is certain they were american.

>> this american security forces guy came back and said if you want to get out, we understand it's dangerous but this is probably your best shot.

>> reporter: as they ran from the mall, more gunshots and explosions.

>> we were walking out of the store and all of a sudden all of this gunfire starts on the first floor and there's just bullets. we start walking about 20 feet and then, like, within like 30 feet of us two grenades are thrown. that part was the worst. we thought it was over. we're out of the woods.

>> reporter: while hiding she texted her father. in an active shooter situation, please pray. back home, her mother terrified had written it all down.

>> and i love you both very much. and i wrote it because if anything did end up happening to her at least i know that she was thinking about us, that she cared about us.

>> are you okay?

>> no. [ crying ]

>> reporter: 72 hours after being rescued in nairobi, she was home in washington.

>> we want you to be safe.

>> yeah.

>> we want you to be safe.

>> reporter: she isn't sure if she'll ever return to kenya. as for the security team that rescued her we checked with the pentagon, the state department , and the world bank , all of them say they didn't have any security teams on the ground. so it's not at all clear who rescued her and exactly how it all went down. guys, back to you.

>> powerful interview. thank you very much.