Somali Group Threatens Western Shopping Areas

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Shoppers walk along Oxford Street in central London, February 22, 2015. Neil Hall/Reuters

Updated | The U.S. Homeland Security chief on Sunday warned people congregating in popular shopping areas, such as Minnesota's Mall of America, to take precautions and be "vigilant" in light of threats contained in a new online video from an Al-Qaeda-affiliated Somali terrorist group, reports ABC News.

According to Reuters, the video release by al-Shabaab referenced London's Oxford Street, the Mall of America and Canada's West Edmonton Mall in particular while warning about the possibility of attacks on crowded Western shopping areas.

"We're beyond the phase now where these groups would send foreign operatives into countries after being trained someplace," Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson said in an interview with CNN on Sunday. "Anytime a terrorist organization calls for an attack on a specific place, we've got to take that seriously."

Bloomington, Minnesota's Mall of America is the largest mall in the United States, attracting more than 40 million visitors a year. The shopping center in a statement on Sunday said it is working with local, state and federal law enforcement officials to ensure that shoppers will be safe. "We will continue to follow the situation, along with law enforcement, and will remain vigilant as we always do in similar situations," the statement read. But later on Sunday afternoon, shoppers at the Mall of America appeared either unfazed by the threats or unaware that one had even been made, according to Reuters.

Authorities are bracing themselves for possible extremism among members of the community in Minnesota; prosecutors told Reuters that dozens of people have left the state and tried to join terrorist groups abroad, al-Shabaab and the Islamic State among them.

On Sunday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security released a statement confirming that they were addressing a "reported call from al-Shabaab for 'Westgate style' attacks against shopping centers around the world, to include in the United States," citing the group's 2013 attack on a mall in Nairobi, Kenya that left more than 65 people dead.