The son of a former security minister in the Kenyan government has spoken about how he rushed to the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi after receiving a text from his brother who was trapped inside.

The Daily Telegraph reveals that Abdul Haji's father taught him to use a gun when he was growing up, to protect their cattle from bandits.

His skills were to provide fire cover for the Kenyan Red Cross workers and help some of the 1,000 people escape at the start of a three day siege. But at least 72 lives were lost.

Abdul told a local television channel:

We saw a lot of dead people. Very young people, children, old ladies, you cannot imagine. From what [the gunmen] were doing, you could tell that these were not normal people. The fact that he was making a joke out of this whole thing made me much more angry and determined to engage them, and to shame them.

Abdul Haji with a police officer in the mall. Credit: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic

Mr Haji said he noticed women hiding under a table while he crouched with another rescuer outside the Nakumatt supermarket:

Just a few minutes ago we were exchanging fire with the terrorists and these people were right in the middle of it, in the crossfire. We regrouped and we started to strategise on how to get them out of there.

Mr Haji is pictured left helping Portia to safety. Credit: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic

One of the women was Katherine Walton, 39, whom Mr Haji asked to encourage one of the older children to run towards him.

Her oldest daughter Portia emerged and ran across the deserted corridor in a moment that was captured in a dramatic image by a photographer.

Mr Haji said of the brave little girl:

Amid all this chaos around her, she remained calm, she wasn't crying and she actually managed to run towards men who were holding guns. I was really touched by this and I thought if such a girl can be so gave us all courage.

Recalling the family's escape to safety, Mrs Walton said she could see the fear on her daughter's face in the photograph.

I was worried about family in America seeing it because we haven't really shared the whole story with them yet. For me, I know the story behind it and that it ends well. I think I owe Mr Haji a hug or two.