Somali Terror Group Calls for Attacks on Malls in Canada and U.S. in Newly Released Video

Source: AP
Source: AP

The news: In a video released online Saturday, Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabab, an al-Qaida affliate, called on "their Muslim brothers" to execute lone-wolf attacks on Western shopping malls. The video listed, among others, the Mall of America in Minnesota, the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, and London's Oxford Street, all three large and prominent shopping destinations.

CBC reports that most of the nearly 77-minute video is spent glorifying the group's Westgate Mall attacks in 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya, that left at least 67 people dead and over 175 wounded. It's near the end of the video that the masked man with an English accent calls on "Muslim brothers to target the disbelievers wherever they are."

"If just a handful of mujahedeen fighters could bring Kenya to a complete standstill for nearly a week," he continues, "then imagine what a dedicated mujahedeen in the West could do to the American or Jewish-owned shopping centers across the world."

The reaction: According to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, the U.S. is taking the threats seriously and looking into the gravity of these calls to action. 

"This latest statement from al Shabaab reflects the new phase we've evolved to in the global terrorist threat, in that you have groups such as al-Shabaab and ISIL publicly calling for independent actors in their homelands to carry out attacks," Johnson reportedly said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union. "Anytime a terrorist organization calls for an attack on a specific place, we've got to take that seriously." 

A Mall of America security official told CBS News that the mall has responded to the video by taking "extra security precautions — some visible to guests and others that are not."

Is this a credible threat? Reuters reports that some U.S., Canadian and European officials are skeptical of the video's threats and point to al-Shabaab's lack of Western ties as the reason calling on lone militants already living in these areas is not likely to gain much traction. 

"In balance, I don't think this video adds much on top of the ubiquitous 'lone offender' threat," one official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters

While sizable in its own right, al-Shabaab hasn't necessarily gained the notoriety of other, more prominent, terrorist groups like al-Qaida or the Islamic State group. But with an estimated 7,000 to 9,000 militant members, the group could certainly be a threat, as demonstrated by the group's 2013 Westgate Mall attacks. The question, however, remains: Is this a real threat?

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Matt Essert

Matt is the news director at Mic, covering breaking news. He is based in New York and can be reached at matt@mic.com.

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