BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Security was tightened at Mall of America Sunday, after a Somali militant group with ties to al-Qaeda referenced in a video MOA and the deadly 2013 attack on the Westgate mall in Kenya.
"What if such an attack was to occur in the Mall of America in Minnesota? Or the West Edmonton Mall in Canada? Or London's Oxford Street?" an unidentified male speaker asks in the video. He then appeals to supporters, "hurry up, hasten towards heaven and do not hesitate."
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said the threat from terrorists is entering a new phase, but stopped short of telling people to avoid the Mall of America.
"I'm not telling people to not go to the mall. I think that there needs to be an awareness, there needs to be vigilance, and be careful, obviously," Johnson said during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press.
In a statement, Mall of America said it is working closely with local, state and federal authorities. "We take any potential threat seriously and respond appropriately. Mall of America has implemented extra security precautions, some may be noticeable to guests, and others won't be," the statement said.
The mall was open for business on Sunday, but MOA management forbade reporters from entering the mall. A KARE 11 employee, who attempted to get lunch at the mall, was instructed by a security guard to buy his sandwich someplace else.
Will other shoppers avoid the mall? Travelers arriving at nearby MSP International Airport had mixed feelings.
"Definitely want to stay away, don't want to put yourself in that situation," said Brett Felling of Plymouth, arriving home after a weekend in Chicago
Jim Bedore of Marquette, Michigan said a trip to Mall of America would not frighten him. "I would still go if the threat was there or not," he said. "I'm not going to let people stop me from what I want to do and my way of life."
Late Sunday, the Bloomington Police Department issued a statement that said in part, "there is no credible threat associated with the Mall of America."
The statement jointly issued
A representative of the group American Friends of Somalia said members of the Twin Cites Somali community fear a backlash.
"Everybody's shocked and they don't know what do with it," said Omar
Jamal said Minnesotans need to know that al-Shabaab is no friend of Somali people. "al-Shabaab has killed more Somalis than they have any other nationality, so al-Shabaab is a threat to the existence of the Somali state, Somali people," said Jamal.