The Mall of America, the largest shopping mall in the United States, has received a terror threat, along with malls in Canada and England. On Monday, the Mall of America revealed how seriously they have taken the terror threat, and showed reporters their underground security center.
The Mall of America has bomb-sniffing dogs and performs officer-training exercises to maintain security at the loading dock, where officers thoroughly check all vehicles that come through for explosives before they can open their doors. There is also a team monitoring all social media sites.
The terror threat video to the Mall of America upset Somali immigrants in Minnesota. The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Minnesota said that the safety of those in Minnesota is extremely important to them as a group. They said they are against terrorism and threats of terrorism and they are against any group or individual that would carry out these attacks or make these kinds of terror threats. They are committed to being upfront about wanting to defeat religious and political extremism.
The video threatening the Mall of America came from the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab, an Islamist militant group in Africa and told followers to attack specific sites. The video included the GPS coordinates to the sites. The same terrorist group took responsibility for the 2013 attack on a Nairobi shopping mall in Kenya. Over 60 people were killed.
Federal officials have been unclear if they are taking the video seriously and have not announced if it has been authenticated. They say they are unaware of credible threats to the Mall of America, but urged shoppers to be vigilant anyway. The Mall of America has said that they are taking the threat seriously and have bumped-up security – both visibly and behind the scenes.
If Mall of America shoppers knew about the threat they were unfazed. Shoppers and mall walkers were at the Mall of America despite al-Shabaab’s threat to the tourist destination. It did not deter the hundreds of people who came out before the stores opened to walk in support of the National Eating Disorders Association.
The Mall of America has 520 stores, 50 restaurants and a theme park, with roller coaster included. The area surrounding the Mall of America has the largest group of Somalis in the United States, numbering more than 50,000. Since 2007, the United States has been watching to see if Somali men are being recruited into al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab has been affiliated with al-Qaeda as a terrorist group.
Realistically, al-Shabaab has shown little ability to conduct any operations outside Somalia and neighboring countries. The only operation that has been attempted in the West which was associated with al-Shabaab was in 2010, when a Somali extremist forced himself into Kurt Westergaard’s home with an axe. The Danish cartoonist had created a cartoon depicting the prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban. The cartoonist was unharmed.
However, al-Shabaab has recruited men from the United States, mostly from Minnesota, to join its cause and fight in Somalia. Seven Somali-Americans were recruited in 2007, including Shirwa Ahmed, who went to high school in Minneapolis and worked at the Minneapolis airport helping disabled people. He became more religious during this time and started to counsel troubled Somali children in the low-income community of Minneapolis nicknamed “Little Mogadishu.”
Ahmed left Minneapolis on Dec. 4, 2007, and headed to Saudi Arabia before making his way to Somalia. Al-Shabaab trained Ahmed to use a variety of weapons. On Oct. 29, 2008, Ahmed drove a truckload of explosives toward the government compound in Puntland, Somalia, blowing himself up along with 20 others. Ahmed was labeled the first U.S. citizen to perform a terrorist suicide bombing. The fear at the Mall of America, is that one person recruited by al-Shabaab will carry out something terrible and deadly at the Mall of America. Security officials at the Mall of America want to remind shoppers, “if you see something, say something.”
By Jeanette Smith