The Mall of America in Minnesota. Al-Shabaab has called for attacks on shopping malls in the UK, US and Canada.
US and British security services are assessing the credibility of new threats against western shopping centres issued by Somali-based Islamist terrorists.
A propaganda video released by militant group al-Shabaab on Saturday called for strikes on five shopping centres: Oxford Street and two Westfield malls in London; the Mall of America in Minnesota; and Canada’s West Edmonton mall.
US homeland security chief Jeh Johnson said on Sunday he took the threat seriously and urged people to take care and be vigilant while shopping.
The 77-minute video was released online by the media wing of al-Shabaab, the Somali-based affiliate of al-Qaida.
It urged followers to carry out attacks on “American and Jewish-owned” shopping centres similar to the siege at the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2013, in which 67 people were killed and more than 175 wounded by four gunmen.
“We call upon our Muslim brothers, particularly those in the west, to answer the call of Allah and target the disbelievers wherever they are,” a black man in a military-style jacket, with his face covered by a headscarf, says in the video.
The man goes on to suggest an attack on the Mall of America, the biggest retail centre in the US. Map coordinates for the mall were displayed on screen.
The mall is a prominent feature of the Minneapolis-St Paul metropolitan area, home to the country’s largest population of Somali immigrants. Several men are known to have travelled from the region to the Middle East and Africa in recent years to fight with Islamist militants.
A statement from the Mall of America said its bosses were aware of the video and had implemented extra security measures.
“We will continue to monitor events with the help of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies,” said the statement. “As always, we take any potential threat seriously and respond appropriately.”
The video also proposed strikes on Oxford Street in central London as well as Westfield malls in Stratford, east London and White City, west London.
It singled out as another target the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada, which is the largest shopping mall in North America.
“What would be the implications of such an attack?” the narrator asked. “One could only imagine.”
Asked how seriously he was taking the new threat, Johnson told CNN: “I’m very concerned about the serious potential threat of independent actors here in the United States.
“Any time a terrorist organisation calls for an attack on a specific place, we’ve got to take that seriously.”
A spokesman for the Metropolitan police (MPS) said: “The MPS counter-terrorism command is aware of the video and is assessing the content.
“We remind the public that downloading extremist material may constitute an offence.”
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