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Somalia extremists urge attacks on US shopping malls

Published:Monday | February 23, 2015 | 2:00 AM
The exterior of the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota

JOHANNESBURG (AP):

A video purported to be by Somalia's al-Qaida-linked rebel group al-Shabab urged Muslims to attack shopping malls in the United States (US), Canada, Britain, and other Western countries.

In the video, released late Saturday, the extremist group again said its September 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, was in reprisal for Kenyan military involvement in Somalia. Sixty-seven people died in the attack. The video, using footage from major news organisations, showed the assault on the mall.

The masked narrator of the 76-minute video warned of more attacks in Kenya, and concluded by calling on Muslims to attack shopping malls, specifically mentioning the Mall of America in Minnesota, the West Edmonton Mall in Canada and the Westfield mall in Stratford, England.

The authenticity of the video could not be immediately verified by The Associated Press.

The narrator, his face wrapped in a black-and-white kaffiyeh-type scarf and wearing a camouflage jacket, spoke with a British accent and appeared to be of Somali origin. He accused Kenyan troops in Somalia of committing abuses against Somali Muslims.

He ended the video by calling on Muslim men to attack other shopping malls in Western countries.

 

Possible targets

 

"What if such an attack were to occur in the Mall of America in Minnesota? Or the West Edmonton Mall in Canada? Or in London's Oxford Street?" the masked man said, then called for Britain's Westfield mall to be targeted.

Speaking on morning talks shows in the US, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson called the video "the new phase" of the global terrorist threat and said the US took such threats seriously.

"These groups are relying more and more on independent actors to become inspired, drawn to the cause and they'll attack on their own," Johnson said.

"I am very concerned about serious potential threats of independent actors here in the United States. We've seen this now in Europe; we've seen this in Canada."

Asked specifically about the Mall of America, Johnson said: "Any time a terrorist organization calls for an attack on a specific place, we've got to take that seriously. What we're telling the public is you've got to be vigilant. ... There will be enhanced security there that will be apparent ... but public vigilance, public awareness and public caution in situations like this is particularly important. It's the environment we're in."

The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, and the Edmonton Mall both issued statements saying they have increased security.

Minnesota is home to the largest Somali population in the US, and the Twin Cities have been the target of terror recruiters. Since 2007, more than 22 young Somali men from Minnesota have travelled to Somalia to join al-Shabab, and a handful of Minnesota residents have also travelled to Syria to fight with militants within the last year, authorities say. At least one Minnesotan has died while fighting for the Islamic State.