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Extremist video calls for attacks on Western malls

JOHANNESBURG — A video purportedly from Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked rebel group al-Shabab urged Muslims to attack shopping malls in the United States, Canada, Britain and other Western countries.

The threat came in the final minutes of a more than hourlong video in which the extremists also warned Kenya of more attacks like the September 2013 assault on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in which 67 people were killed.

The video included footage from major news organizations showing the assault on the mall and said it was in reprisal for alleged abuses by Kenyan troops against Muslims in Somalia.

The masked narrator concluded by calling on Muslims to attack shopping malls, specifically naming the Mall of America in Minnesota, as well as 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 wrap-ped 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.

‘‘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 man said, then called for Britain’s Westfield mall to be targeted.

US officials said there was no credible evidence of an imminent threat to a mall anywhere in the nation. But speaking on morning talk shows, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson called the video ‘‘the new phase’’ of the global terrorist threat and warned the public to be vigilant.

‘‘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, on CNN’s ‘‘State of the Union.’’ ‘‘I am very concerned about serious potential threats of independent actors here in the United States.’’


Asked about the specific threat against the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., 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,’’ he said. “It’s the environment we’re in.’’

Homeland Security officials said Johnson was not warning people to avoid the Mall of America, one of the nation’s largest. Minnesota is home to the largest Somali population in the United States.