Al-Shabab, the Somalian terrorist group loosely affiliated with al Qaeda, carried out an attack on a shopping mall in Kenya in 2013. Al-Shabab has now released a video that urges its followers in North America and the United Kingdom to execute similar terrorist attacks, including a specific call for an attack on the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota:
“Be particularly careful” if you intend to visit the Mall of America.
That’s the cautionary message Sunday from Jeh Johnson, the U.S. secretary of Homeland Security, in the wake of Somali terrorist group Al-Shabab releasing a video calling for attacks on Western malls. The video specifically mentioned the megamall in Bloomington.
I am not sure how one goes about being “particularly careful.” The mall bans guns, so that rules out the most obvious precaution that shoppers could take.
In following up to Johnson’s message to Mall of American visitors, another department official wanted to make clear that the secretary was not urging people to stay away from the mall.
“Secretary Johnson didn’t say that they should not go to the mall,” assistant secretary Tanya Bradsher told CNN. “He told shoppers to be extra vigilant and that security was increased.”
Normally there is little or no apparent security at the mall.
With the “America” in the name and its red, white and blue color scheme, the mammoth shopping and entertainment complex makes for an attractive potential target for terrorists seeking to make a statement about what they view as U.S.-inspired Western decadence.
True. Stephen Hunter’s Soft Target, part of his sniper series, is a gripping narrative of a terrorist attack on the Mall of America carried out by Somalians.
Also, terror groups are quite familiar with the metro area that the megamall calls home. Just between 2007 and 2009, at least 22 young Somali-Americans left the Twin Cities after being recruited to join Al-Shabab. Officials say another 15 have left Minnesota in recent months to join Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
There reportedly are around 25,000 Somalians and Somali-Americans in the Twin Cities. Is it farfetched to think that a handful of them might act on al-Shabab’s incitement? No.
In 2005, the mall started a special security unit whose officers look for unexplained nervousness, people photographing such things as air-conditioning ducts or signs that a shopper might have something to hide, according to records.
From outside the mall Sunday, there was no obvious sign of intensified security as visitors arrived. Mall spokeswoman Sarah Schmidt said that Sunday was unfolding just like another day at the popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
One visitor to the mall Sunday morning said it was 45 minutes before she saw her first uniformed security officer, and a handful of other shoppers seemed unfazed by the attention given the mall by terrorists.
Security can always be upgraded, but there are limits to what can be done at a location that is open to the public and is visited by an average of more than 100,000 people per day.
Johnson said he has been visiting Minneapolis and other major metropolitan areas and “meeting with community leaders, talking about the importance of public participation in our efforts.”
I have no idea whether any local extremists will follow up on al-Shabab’s plea, but I am pretty sure that no amount of walking-around money distributed to “community leaders,” midnight basketball and the like will have any impact on the likelihood of a terrorist attack on the Mall of America, or anywhere else.