23/02/2017 19:05 SAST | Updated 23/02/2017 19:29 SAST

TV Drama '24: Legacy' Used Real Footage of Westgate Mall Terror Attack

Fox TV had to apologise to Kenya for the bungle.

REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
Survivors carry flowers as they arrive for the first anniversary memorial service of the Westgate shopping mall terrorist attack in Kenya's capital Nairobi, September 21, 2014. At least 67 people were killed on September 21, 2013, when gunmen from the Somali militant group al Shabaab attacked the luxury shopping mall in the capital, tossing grenades, spraying shoppers with bullets and holding parts of the building for four days. The stand-off was focused around the Nakumatt supermarket inside the mall, one of Kenya's biggest chains, where the attackers held hostages and three staff members died.

An American TV drama series used real footage from the terrorist attack on Kenya's Westgate Mall in the show and has now had to apologise.

"24: Legacy" used the footage in a fictitious scenario scripted as being in Egypt.

The Nairobi News reported that Fox Network apologised to Kenyans after airing the footage of the attack. "Kenyans were outraged after the American network showed the moment when four unidentified terrorists entered Westgate Mall in Nairobi and started shooting people indiscriminately," said the newspaper.

The attack was carried out by Al-Shabaab militants in September 2013 and killed at least 67 people and dozens injured.

Quartz Africa reported that Fox studies confirmed that the footage was of the Nairobi attack and said that the producers "very much regret using it to depict a fictional act of terror on the show". Quartz Africa reported that the show's executive producers Evan Katz and Manny Coto said they were "deeply sorry" and apologised to the victims and their families. They said the footage was included in episode 4 of the series but would be "removed from all future broadcasts and versions of the show".

The Nairobi News reported that the Kenya Film Classification Board called the TV drama's usage a "repulsive, insensitive and reckless piece of art that heartlessly evokes the painful memories of the tragic terror attack", said the Nairobi News. "It flies in the face of basic considerations of human dignity, in total disregard of the feelings of the victims and their families," said the board's CEO Ezekiel Mutua, said the newspaper. "It is not only an inaccurate and false narrative of the Westgate terror attack, but also a callous piece of entertainment that demeans Africans and Kenyans in particular."

The footage used shows masked gunmen stalking and shooting victims, while others including children flee.

The "24: Legacy" episode referred to the attack as being in Alexandria, Egypt, ups the death toll and includes Americans among the victims.

Nairobi Wire reported the clip was used in an episode in which the show's fictional counter-terrorism unit briefs superiors on a terrorist search, using a video of what is purported to be a terrorist attack in a market in Alexandria, Egypt. "Over 200 people lost their lives, including 18 Americans," explains the character. "Who knows whether Fox was too broke to re-create an attack, or just wanted it to look real," said Nairobi Wire.

Kenyan Vibe said the show clearly needed to up its ratings. "It's not scoring the kinds of ratings that its predecessor used to manage – and many are saying that its use of shock tactics is one of the key reasons for this," it said. "Fox is a big network and 24 a massive name — if they wanted to depict a mass shooting — they could have staged one. Forcing people to relive that moment in this kind of manner was not particularly necessary."

Nairobi Wire and Kenyan Vibe both published the clip from the TV show that aired the footage.