JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A video purported to be by Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked rebel group al-Shabab urged Muslims to attack shopping malls in the U.S., Canada, Britain and other Western countries.
In the video, released late Saturday, the extremist group again said its September 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, was in reprisal for Kenyan military involvement in Somalia. Sixty-seven people died in the attack. The video, using footage from major news organizations, showed the assault on the mall.
The masked narrator of the 76-minute video warned of more attacks in Kenya and concluded by calling on Muslims to attack shopping malls, specifically mentioning the Mall of America in Minnesota, the West Edmonton Mall in Canada and the Westfield mall in Stratford, England.
The authenticity of the video could not be immediately verified by The Associated Press.
The narrator, his face wrapped in a black-and-white kaffiyeh-type scarf and wearing a camouflage jacket, spoke with a British accent and appeared to be of Somali origin. He accused Kenyan troops in Somalia of committing abuses against Somali Muslims.
He ended the video by calling on Muslim men to attack other shopping malls in Western countries.
“What if such an attack were to occur in the Mall of America in Minnesota? Or the West Edmonton Mall in Canada? Or in London’s Oxford Street?” the masked man said, then called for Britain’s Westfield mall to be targeted.
Speaking on morning talks shows in the U.S., Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, called the video “the new phase” of the global terrorist threat and said the U.S. took such threats seriously.
“These groups are relying more and more on independent actors to become inspired, drawn to the cause and they’ll attack on their own,” Johnson said, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“I am very concerned about serious potential threats of independent actors here in the United States. We’ve seen this now in Europe, we’ve seen this in Canada.”
Asked specifically about the Mall of America, Johnson said: “Any time a terrorist organization calls for an attack on a specific place we’ve got to take that seriously. What we’re telling the public is you’ve got to be vigilant. … There will be enhanced security there that will be apparent … but public vigilance, public awareness and public caution in situations like this is particularly important. It’s the environment we’re in.”
The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, and the Edmonton Mall both issued statements saying they have increased security.
Minnesota is home to the largest Somali population in the U.S., and the Twin Cities have been the target of terror recruiters. Since 2007, more than 22 young Somali men from Minnesota have traveled to Somalia to join al-Shabab, and a handful of Minnesota residents have also traveled to Syria to fight with militants within the last year, authorities say. At least one Minnesotan has died while fighting for the Islamic State.
On Thursday, a 19-year-old Minneapolis man who was stopped at a New York City airport in November as he and three others were allegedly attempting to travel to Syria was indicted on charges associated with supporting the Islamic State group.
Last week U.S. Attorney Andy Luger led a Minnesota delegation, including law enforcement officials and Somali community leaders, to a White House summit on countering extremism and radicalization. In his remarks, Vice President Joe Biden held up Boston, Los Angeles and Minneapolis as examples of communities moving ahead with programs to counter extremism locally.
In Kenya, the government dismissed the al-Shabab video.
“They’re using propaganda to legitimize what cannot be legitimized. When you lead a group to go and attack a shopping mall and kill innocent shoppers that cannot be legitimized, those were not soldiers,” Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka said.
“Muslims also died in the Westgate attack. It’s in our interest to ensure Somalia is stabilized because the instability affects us. The video is cheap propaganda trying to re-write history and to get more support from those support them.”
AP writers Tom Odula in Nairobi, Kenya; Jeff Baenen in Minneapolis and Thomas Strong in Washington, DC, contributed to this report.
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