The Somali militant group al-Shabaab has released a video that calls for terrorist attacks on Western shopping malls in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson went on CNN Sunday morning to warn the public to be vigilant, although he did not suggest avoiding shopping centers.
The Mall of America was one of the venues listed specifically in the video, which was released late Saturday. CNN noted that Minneapolis is home of the largest Somali population in America, which might give al-Shabaab additional influence in that location. The militants have recruited heavily in the city.
Shopping mall violence relates back to the 2013 terror attack by al-Shabaab on a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, that killed more than 60 people. The video just released focuses on that attack, then calls for similar attacks elsewhere. An unidentified man on the video says to imaging what a dedicated mujahedeen in the West could to to the large shopping centers around the world if a mere handful of mujahedeen fighters cause a complete standstill in Kenya for nearly a week. He then specifically mentioned Canada’s West Edmonton Mall, Minnesota’s Mall of America and Lon’s Oxford Street.
Mall of America officials issued a statement saying that they had implemented extra security precautions, some of which may not be noticeable to guests. A spokeswoman for the Mall said that mall activity seemed normal on Sunday. Shoppers and mall walkers reported that they saw no additional security. Clem Jauquet said he was aware of the threat but was not concerned enough to miss his regular early-morning walk in the mall.
Rich Quinn, an FBI spokesperson, said that there is no doubt that al-Shabaab would like to attack a U.S. mall, but that they are “in a pretty weakened state.” He said the bigger danger is the possibility that they will inspire “homegrown violent extremists” already within the U.S. who might decide to act on this propaganda. He said the FBI does not believe al-Shabaab is sending operatives to the U.S.