‘No credible threat’ against Mall of America, authorities say
Authorities say there is “no credible threat” associated with the Mall of America after the release of a video purportedly made by Somalia-based terror group al-Shabab that urges Muslims to attack shopping malls. The video specifically mentions the Bloomington shopping venue.
The Bloomington Police Department issued a statement late Sunday in partnership with the FBI and state law enforcement saying that despite finding no threat, additional security measures had been put in place.
Gov. Mark Dayton’s press secretary Matt Swenson said Sunday that the governor had been in regular contact with state Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman throughout the day.
Earlier Sunday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson warned Mall of America shoppers to be “particularly careful” in the wake of the video.
“There will be enhanced security there, but public vigilance, public awareness and public caution in situations like this is particularly important, and it’s the environment we’re in, frankly,” Johnson told CNN.
The nearly 77-minute video, released online, focused mostly on the conflict between Kenya and Somalia and the deadly attack in 2013 at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the Westgate attack, in which more than 60 people died.
At the end of the video, an unidentified man dressed in camouflage, with his face covered, calls for similar attacks at the Mall of America and elsewhere.
In response to the threat, the FBI’s Minneapolis division is working with local law enforcement and with Mall of America security, FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said.
“These types of threats are taken seriously, obviously, by the FBI and our local partners,” he said. “We’re going to continue to monitor these events and hopefully find out, or get to the bottom of, or mitigate, what actually has occurred or why these threats are occurring.”
The mall was open for business as usual on Sunday. Despite the planned extra security, al-Shabab’s focus on the state’s largest attraction gave at least one visitor pause.
Stacy Kronschnabel, of Mendota Heights, brings her three children to the Mall of America once a week in the winter. She said the threat will put an end to that.
“It’s a very terrifying thing,” Kronschnabel said. “My kids they love to go there, we love to go on the rides, all that. But now, I told the kids, ‘We’re not going there anymore.'”
Loven said people need to decide for themselves whether they should go to the mall, but they should know that law enforcement is working to ensure that shoppers are safe.
“A healthy sense of vigilance is never a bad thing, but I think by in large people need to continue to live their lives as they see fit,” he said.
Johnson, of Homeland Security, linked the purported Mall of America warning from al-Shabab and other recent terror alerts to what he described as a “new phase” of challenges by extremist groups abroad that have used alarming Internet videos and social media to gain adherents in the United States and potentially prod some to action.
“This new phase is more complex, less centralized, more diffuse,” Johnson said, adding: “It encourages independent actors who strike with very little notice.”
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar told WCCO-TV on Sunday that federal, state and local law enforcement officials in Minnesota have a done a good job of protecting the community from the terrorist threat. Klobuchar said she spoke with Johnson and U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger — and “everyone is focused on how to best protect the mall.”
“We have been very successful in Minnesota in going after these guys,” Klobuchar said of al-Shabab. She added that efforts by authorities to work with the Somali community have paid dividends — in multiple indictments and convictions.
“Trust is built,” Klobuchar said, “so you’re able to get information to find out who these bad guys are and what’s happening.”