Mall of America Threatened in Al-Shabaab Terrorist Video
A new video supposedly released by the militant Islamist group al-Shabaab has mall-goers in the United States, Canada, and U.K. on alert.
In the six-minute video, a disguised member of the Somali terror group affiliated with al-Qaeda called for attacks on the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, West Edmonton Mall in Canada, and the Oxford Street shopping area in London. Most sources have taken down the video, but you can see a still from it in the tweet below.
— ABC News (@ABC) February 23, 2015
This is the same organization that claimed responsibility for the horrific four-day-long attack on Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, that killed at least 67 civilians in 2013. The speaker in the video allegedly celebrates this attack, showing graphic images while accusing Kenyan troops in Somalia of committing abuses against Somali Muslims. He also claims al-Shabaab was responsible for the Friday attack on a hotel in Somalia’s capital.
Using Westgate as a warning for other malls, an image of the Mall of America is shown in the video alongside its GPS coordinates, sparking a swift response from mall officials. They have already begun to beef up security and are asking shoppers to stay vigilant telling CNN:
We take any potential threat seriously and respond appropriately. We have implemented extra security precautions; some may be noticeable to guests, and others won’t be.
In light of the Westgate attack, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI should be taking this video seriously. However, they initially downplayed the threat, releasing a joint statement Sunday saying that they were not “aware of any specific, credible plot against the Mall of America or any other domestic commercial shopping center.” They went on to say in the statement:
In recent months, the FBI and DHS have worked closely with our state and local public safety counterparts and members of the private sector, to include mall owners and operators, to prevent and mitigate these types of threats.
DHS Chief Jeh Johnson appeared on several Sunday news shows to address questions on the potential terror threat and reassure the American public that it’s “still ok to shop.” With each of his messages on vigilance, he ended with explaining why now, more than ever, DHS needs its $40 billion funding approved before the February 27 deadline. If gridlocked lawmakers fail to agree in the next three days, the department will be left with no funding while hundreds of thousands of employees are forced to report to work without pay. Congress’ unwillingness to agree is the same kind of embarrassing display that led to the 16-day-long federal government shutdown in October 2013.
So far, no mall attacks have been reported since the release of the video, but shoppers are still being urged to be careful and keep an eye out for suspicious behavior. Unfortunately, judging the legitimacy of terror threats sent through videos has become even harder when some, like those from ISIS, prove to be far too real.