Washington, Feb 24 (IANS/EFE) The Mall of America in the US state of Minnesota has increased its security and is scheduled to maintain an “open-ended” alert after video threats made by the radical Somali Islamist Al Shabab movement, mall authorities told Efe Monday.
In a videotape released recently, Al Shabab called upon its sympathisers in Western countries to attack malls and shopping centers, specifically citing establishments in Minnesota, Canada, on London’s Oxford Street and certain locations in Paris.
In the video images red, white and blue star and the white lettering for Mall of America, located in the town of Bloomington, where there is a large Somali community.
“We have taken additional security measures. We’re very alert and we’re going to take (even more) security precautions,” mall officials said.
The increase in security at the shopping center began Saturday after the video was released and, for the moment, the measures will remain in place “indefinitely”, the officials said.
On its Web site, Mall of America said that it was the largest shopping and entertainment center in the US with more than 520 stores of all sorts. It receives more than 40 million visitors each year from all over the world.
On Sunday, in an interview with CNN, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said that “These groups were relying more and more on independent actors to become inspired, drawn to the cause … on their own, through their effective use of the Internet… 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.”
Any time a terrorist group calls for an attack on a specific place, the US government has to take it seriously, said Johnson, who added that people should not refuse to go to the mall because of a “random online threat,” but if they go they should be careful.
The militant group in September 2013 attacked the Westgate mall in Nairobi, killing 67 people in several hours of mayhem.
The US killed the leader of Al Shabab in a air strike in Somalia last year and the group swore to avenge his death.
The group, which in 2012 announced its formal link-up with the Al Qaeda network, is fighting to topple the Somali government and set up an Islamic state in the northeast African nation.