Security at The Mall of America, one of the most popular shopping malls in the U.S. has been tightened after a threatening video was released by terrorists in Somalia. The terrorists were seen instigating their sleeper cells or random self radicalized youth to launch specific attacks on shopping malls in the U.S., the UK, and Canada. The notorious terrorist group known as Al-Shabab, based in Mogadishu, Somalia has called for terrorist strikes on America’s largest shopping mall, The Mall of America. The shopping mall is located in Bloomington, Minnesota.
The Mall of America has close to 500 stores and has an average daily footfall of approximately 100,000. More than 40 million visitors are welcomed into the mall every year. This is the maximum number of footfalls recorded in a shopping mall anywhere in the world. This makes The Mall of America an iconic landmark for the United States.
Extra security measures have also been implemented at the West Edmonton mall in Alberta, Canada after the threat. More security personnel have been brought-in in response to the threat. Al-Shabab is the group responsible for the attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya in 2013. More than 60 people had lost their lives in this terrorist attack.
It is worth noting that both these places, Bloomington, Minnesota and Edmonton, Alberta, have a sizeable population of Somali immigrants. The largest Somali immigrant population in the U.S. lives in Minnesota. There have been reports that efforts are being made to recruit young disillusioned Somali men and women from this region in this terror outfit. The authorities have kept a close watch on the events for over a year now, though they have remained tight-lipped about the developments.The department of Homeland Security has also tracked recruiting activities in and around the area. There have been a few cases of disappearing young men and women in the region and then suddenly being traced or located in Syria fighting for the terrorists or being killed in one of the strikes by the U.S. or its NATO allies.
Of late, such kind of threats have increased manifold due to the growing number of people from the western world being radicalized and wanting to join the terror groups like ISIS. They travel to Iraq or Syria through Turkey and get trained to fight against the U.S. and its NATO allies. Tracking and apprehending such instances is getting tougher by the day as these individuals lay low for quite some time. They basically go undetected for months and go off radar. The number of such cases is rising rapidly. To avoid any untoward incident, the security at The Mall of America and other shopping malls in the U.S., the UK, and Canada have been tightened. Such videos could give rise to self radicalized youth in the west. Exactly the kind that Al-Shabab is said to be targeting.
The name Al-Shabab means ‘the youth’. The group is now trying to imitate the actions of other terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda by uploading videos and threatening the west. Due to the reach and accessibility on the internet, such videos could attract impressionable young men and women. By attracting lone wolf kind of attacks, Al-Shabab could get to boast about its reach half way across the world without a lot of investment or planning. Technically, such lone wolf attacks on a shopping mall or a shooting in a school will serve as a huge propaganda tool for the group with no major planning required.
Al-Shabab’s control over Somalia has been reduced significantly due to responsive strikes by the U.S. and its NATO allies last year. However, in its desperation to remain relevant Al-Shabab is now using this tactic to keep attracting fighters from the west and other parts of the world to join the group. At present, security at The Mall of America and other shopping malls has been tightened with the loopholes being plugged.
By Ankur Sinha
Cliff – License
Michael Ocampo – License