Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is calling for “awareness” in the wake of threats made against the Minneapolis-based Mall of America.

Late yesterday, Somalia-based terror group al-Shabaab released a video calling for terror attacks on malls in the US, Canada, and the UK. Although there is no specific threat, officials are still urging caution, and high-profile shopping centers are upping their security presence.

Another U.S. law enforcement official familiar with the situation also told CNN that there is no actual working threat against any mall in the country and added that no one should avoid going to the mall because of the online threat.

In its new video, Al-Shabaab calls for similar attacks on malls in the three Western countries. Al-Shabaab identified specific malls, but CNN will not list them unless they respond publicly.

[FBI spokesman Rich] Quinn told CNN that “there is no doubt Al-Shabaab would like to carry out an attack on a U.S. mall, but they are in a pretty weakened state.”

The “bigger danger is their ability to inspire homegrown violent extremists inside the U.S. who might see this propaganda and decide to act,” Quinn said.

“Do we believe Al-Shabaab is sending operatives to the U.S.? No,” he said.

This particular type of threat dovetails with al-Shabaab’s history of attacks closer to their home base in Somalia. Back in 2013, the group launched a 4-day attack against an upscale mall in Nairobi, Kenya that left over 60 people dead and still serves as a legacy moment for al-Shabaab. Even now, the group uses similar threats to shopping malls and other public places as a way to create an atmosphere of fear in areas they hope to control (or use to send a message to their enemies.)

Because there’s no specific, active threat against a particular location, property owners are acting at their own discretion; for example, the Mall of America is upping their security both on the ground and in the background, where patrons won’t notice. But the threat is shining light on the ongoing battle in Congress to continue DHS funding without opening the door to Obama’s executive amnesty.

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.

Will the fourth time be a charm? We’ll see.

Until then, be safe out there.


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