Visitors to the Mall of America must be “particularly careful” after a terror group threatened the Minneapolis-area tourist attraction, the U.S. Homeland Security secretary said.
Jeh Johnson’s comments during an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program followed the release of a video Saturday by the terror group al-Shabaab that called for attacks in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., according to the news network.
“If anyone is planning to go to the Mall of America today, they’ve got to be particularly careful,” Johnson said. He said later on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he wasn’t telling people to steer clear of the mall.
Gunmen from al-Shabaab, based in Somalia, attacked a shopping mall in Kenya in September 2013. At least 67 people died during the attack, which lasted for days. Minneapolis is home to one of the largest Somali populations in the U.S., and federal officials have said al-Shabaab lured recruits from the region.
The world is dealing with a “new phase” of global terrorism, Johnson said on NBC. Previously, terror groups would train recruits to commit acts of violence and then send them into other countries to carry out plans. Now, such groups are using the Internet and social media to push people to carry out attacks on their own, he said.
“I’m sure security at the mall will be enhanced in ways visible and not visible,” Johnson said in his NBC interview. “There needs to be an awareness” by the public as well, he said.
Mall of America has “implemented extra security precautions, some may be noticeable to guests, and others won’t be,” according to an emailed statement by Dan Jasper, a spokesman. “We will continue to follow the situation, along with law enforcement, and will remain vigilant as we always do in similar situations.”
The complex in Bloomington, Minnesota, has more than 500 stores and attracts 40 million visitors a year, about two-fifths of them tourists, according to its website. It’s owned by Triple Five Group, an Edmonton, Alberta-based development company.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police are also investigating the “exact contents and authenticity” of the video allegedly from the terror group because it contains a threat against Canada’s West Edmonton Mall, Canadian Press reported.
That mall is also owned by Triple Five Group.
Johnson’s interviews on several Sunday morning U.S. news shows aired five days before funding for the Department of Homeland Security is set to lapse. Such an event would trigger a shutdown of non-essential agency operations unless Congress enacts new funds. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner want to use a spending bill to force President Barack Obama to reverse his orders shielding undocumented immigrants from being deported.
On Monday, McConnell will try for a fourth time to advance a House-passed Homeland Security spending bill, H.R. 240, that would require Obama to abandon the immigration action he announced in November.
Democrats have blocked the measure three times. They say Congress should fund Homeland Security, which is responsible for immigration and border enforcement, without setting new limits on immigration policy. Democrats have said they are holding firm in defense of the president’s policies.
The Justice Department is preparing to appeal a judge’s order last week that blocked Obama from implementing his immigration policy changes. On Monday, the administration also will seek an emergency order allowing the president’s plans to proceed during the appeal.
Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday that he didn’t support efforts to shut the government down and that the federal court system is the “best way” to resolve the impasse.
“But have no doubt I am angry, as are my constituents in a border state, that the president of the United States would unconstitutionally issue the executive orders he did,” McCain said.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, urged Republicans to fund the department and fight Obama’s actions in court.
“The worst possible option is to defund the Department of Homeland Security,” Graham said. “And I will not be part of that.”
Johnson said separately on Sunday that he plans to be on Capitol Hill “continuously” this week to press for an end to the stalemate.
During a shutdown, while 80 percent to 85 percent of the department’s employees would be required to come to work, many wouldn’t be paid on time, Johnson said at a cyber-security panel at a National Governors Association meeting in Washington. About 30,000 employees would be furloughed, with headquarters in “skeleton crew” mode, he said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency would have 80 percent of its workforce furloughed at a time of severe weather in parts of the U.S., Johnson said. The agency would also be unable to process disaster-aid claims during a shutdown, he said.