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Malls in US, Canada on High Alert After Terror Threat


FILE - An entrance to the Mall of America is seen in Bloomington, Minn.

Two shopping malls, one in the United States and the other in Canada, are operating with higher security measures following a terrorist threat made by Somali-based Islamist militants.

The Mall of America in Minnesota and the Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Canada both issued statements saying they were increasing security after al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab released a video Saturday appearing to call for attacks on Western shopping malls.

The terrorist threat specifically mentioned shopping areas in the United States, Canada and Britain, including the Mall of America.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday there is no evidence of a credible threat to Mall of America, but he said Americans should remain vigilant.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the al-Shabab video propaganda and said U.S. intelligence agencies do not have any information to corroborate that any individuals are trying to carry out the al-Shabab threat.

"Our view is it's propaganda. Of course we need to remain vigilant as always is the case, but the point of this video was to instill fear," Psaki said.

She also said the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security have increased their collaboration with mall owners over the past months to prevent such attacks.

"In recent months, the FBI and DHS have worked closely with our state and local counterparts and members of the private sector to include mall owners and operators to prevent and mitigate these types of threats," said Psaki.

On Sunday, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said authorities are taking the threat seriously. He said the global terrorist threat has evolved into militant groups "publicly calling for independent actors in their homelands to carry out attacks."

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for a September 2013 terrorist attack that killed 67 people at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

Map showing locations of West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, and Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota
Map showing locations of West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, and Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota

The Mall of America is one of the largest malls in the United States.

Minnesota is home to a sizeable Somali immigrant population. A Minnesota man was recently indicted on charges of conspiring to support the Islamic State extremist group and lying to federal agents investigating recruitment by militant groups.

Prosecutors say dozens of people from Minnesota, many of them Somali-Americans, have traveled or attempted to travel overseas to support groups such as Islamic State or al-Shabab since 2007.

U.S. law enforcement officials have been concerned about the potential for radicalization among members of immigrant communities.

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