Mall of America under threat from al-Shabaab
The Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab released a video this weekend claiming to target several malls and shopping centers in the US and Great Britain. The most prominent target mentioned by the terrorists was the Mall of America in Minneapolis.
Minneapolis has a large Somali population and it is reported by DHS that al-Shabaab has been actively recruiting residents. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that shoppers should be vigilant when visiting the mall.
"If anyone is planning to go to the Mall of America today, they've got to be particularly careful," Johnson said.
"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," he said.
His comments come as the Mall of America implements new security measures -- some of which the mall said in a statement would be noticeable to shoppers.
Al-Shabaab has heavily targeted the Minneapolis area, home to the largest Somali population in the United States, for recruiting. The United States killed the group's leader in an air strike in Somalia last year, leading Al-Shabaab to vow to avenge his death.
In the propaganda video released Saturday, the group also discussed its September 2013 attack on a mall in Kenya, which left more than 60 people dead.
Johnson said Al-Shabaab's threats against the Mall of America as well as major malls in Canada and the United Kingdom come as anti-terror officials focus increasingly on stopping "independent efforts in their homelands."
He said Al-Shabaab and other groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria compete for new recruits and target Western nationals.
"These groups are relying more and more on independent actors to become inspired, drawn to the cause ... on their own, through their effective use of the Internet," Johnson said. "That's why it's critical that we work in the communities where these folks might be able to recruit to develop a counter-narrative."
Johnson also said the latest threats highlight the "reason why I need a budget."
Nothing like politicizing a terror threat, eh Jeh? Sheesh.
I have no doubt he's serious - and so are the terrorists. Al-Shabaab carried out one of the most frightening terrorist attacks in recent years when 4 gunmen entered the Westpoint Mall in Nairobi, Kenya in 2013 and calmly shot a couple of hundred people. It is believed at least 67 were killed and more than 175 wounded. Exact numbers are hard to come by because the Kenyan government has chosen to minimize what happened.
You can see for yourself by watching the horrific but fascinating documentary by HBO, "Terror at the Mall."
So, al-Shabaab has the capability, the experience, and probably the personnel to carry out such an attack here in the US. That doesn't mean an attacl is imminent or even likely. But if the terrorist's goal is to frighten Americans into changing how they live, it's probably already a success.