Homeland Security chief warns shoppers to be ‘vigilant’ after mall terrorism threats

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson warned shoppers to be ‘vigilant’ after terrorist threats were made against Minnesota’s Mall of America. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters)

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Shoppers at Minnesota’s Mall of America and other similar centers need to be “vigilant” in light of a video released by a Somali militant group threatening a terror attack, the secretary of Homeland Security said Sunday.

“The public needs to be particularly vigilant,” Secretary Jeh Johnson said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “We’re in a new phase of global terrorist threat right now which involves core Al Qaeda, but now other groups, the ISIL group being the most prominent example of that.”

On Saturday night, a video by Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked rebels urged Muslims to attack shopping malls in the U.S., Canada, Britain and other Western countries.

In the video, the Al Shabab extremist group bragged about its September 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall which killed 67 people Nairobi, Kenya. A masked narrator in the 76-minute video warns of more attacks in Kenya and calls for further assaults on shopping malls, specifically listing the Mall of America in Minnesota, the West Edmonton Mall in Canada and the Westfield Mall in Stratford, England.

“If just a handful of mujahedeen fighters could bring Kenya to a complete standstill for nearly a week, imagine what a dedicated mujahedeen in the West could do to the American or Jewish-owned shopping centers across the world,” the unidentified narrator says.

The Mall of America was singled out as one of the shopping centers Al Shabab encouraged would-be terrorists to attack.(Richard Cummins/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Image)

The Mall of America was singled out as one of the shopping centers Al Shabab encouraged would-be terrorists to attack.(Richard Cummins/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Image)

Mall of America officials said they has boosted security in the wake of the threat. The mall is one of the biggest in the world with more than 500 stores and 50 restaurants. There are more than 40 million visitors each year.

“The safety and security of our guests, employees and tenants remains our top priority,” a mall rep said in a statement.

In 2008, the U.S. declared Al Shabab a terror group.

The organization, which is closely tied to Al Qaeda, took credit for an attack on a hotel in Mogadishu on Friday. At least 15 people died when a car filled with explosives blew up by the main gate of the high-end Central Hotel. A female suicide bomber then detonated her vest inside the hotel.

Al Shabab also claimed responsibility for an attack on a mall in Kenya in 2013. (Farah Abdi Warsame/AP)

Al Shabab also claimed responsibility for an attack on a mall in Kenya in 2013. (Farah Abdi Warsame/AP)

The assault killed two members of parliament and a deputy mayor.

On Sunday, in a round of appearances on network news shows Johnson stressed that he was not instructing people to avoid the mall, but that shoppers should be cautious.

“Anytime a terrorist organization calls for an attack on a specific place, we’ve got to take that seriously,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

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