The US administration's top Homeland Security official has warned Americans to be ''particularly careful'' after terrorist threats against the Mall of America and other shopping centres, while also making a call on Congress not to let his department's funding expire this week.
The warnings from Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson followed the release of a video from the Shabab terrorist group over the weekend that urged militants to attack American, Canadian and British shopping centres, including the mega-mall near Minneapolis. The Shabab is responsible for the 2013 attack on a Kenyan mall that left 67 people dead.
''If anyone is planning to go to the Mall of America today, they've got to be particularly careful,'' Johnson told CNN.
''Any time a terrorist organization calls for an attack on a specific place, we've got to take that seriously,'' he said. ''So through our intelligence bulletins, through working with state and local law enforcement, through working with the FBI, we take this kind of thing very seriously.''
But according to the Los Angeles Times, several US officials said they had no other reason to believe there was an actual plot unfolding against any shopping centres in the US.
One intelligence official said there was no evidence that the video represented anything more than a call to action, and that similar videos in the past had not been linked to subsequent attacks.
But they said the prospect of violence from lone actors unattached to a terrorist group, but open to inspiration through the internet was a continuing concern.
Even before the latest threat, the administration was on high alert over the possibility that Homeland Security's funding would dry up by Saturday. Johnson played up both issues during appearances on several Sunday talk shows.
The Shabab's video specifically mentioned the Mall of America and gave its GPS coordinates, not far from Minneapolis' large Somali community. It appeared to be an explicit exhortation from the Somali-based terrorists to disaffected expatriates in Minnesota.
The Mall of America issued a statement in conjunction with law enforcement agencies, including the Justice Department and the Bloomington, Minn., Police Department.
''At this time there is no credible threat associated with Mall of America,'' it said. ''We take all security concerns seriously and have responded appropriately. Enhanced security measures … have been implemented and all information is being monitored.''