The US homeland security chief has warned shoppers to be “particularly careful” after a radical Islamist group based in Somalia threatened to launch attacks on Western shopping centers, including the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minneapolis.
“If anyone is planning to go to the Mall of America [on Sunday], they’ve got to be particularly careful,” Homeland Security Jeh Johnson told CNN.
“There will be enhanced security there, but public vigilance, public awareness and public caution in situations like this is particularly important, and it’s the environment we’re in, frankly.”
Mall of America, one of the largest shopping centers in the United States, has tightened security after the Shabab, an Al Qaeda-linked extremist group in Somalia, posted a 75-minute video on the internet warning of attacks, the New York Times reported.
The Shabab claimed responsibility for the 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in which more than 60 people were killed, the newspaper said, citing SITE, a website that monitors communications from extremist organizations.
In the video, a masked person wearing a checkered head scarf and a camouflage jacket said, “Westgate was just the beginning”.
The video singles out the Mall of America, Oxford Street, a popular London shopping street, and the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, which is the largest mall in North America.
“The Mall of America is aware of a video that was recently released which included a mention and images of the mall,” the shopping center’s operator was quoted as saying in a statement.
It said the mall had “implemented extra security precautions” and that “some may be noticeable to guests, and others won’t be”.
A law enforcement official warned that the video message could inspire extremist action from people living near the area. Minneapolis has a large Somali population, the report said.
– Contact us at [email protected]