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Mall terrorism threat: What you need to know

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Posted at 11:32 AM, Feb 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-25 10:44:48-05

Security is being enhanced at malls across the U.S. after a threat from Somalian terror organization al-Shabaab, a youth wing of the former Union of Islamic Courts linked to al Qaeda.

The threat was made in a propaganda video released by al-Shabaab, which is linked to a deadly attack on a Kenyan mall two years ago. Sixty-seven people died in the four-day seize.

In it, Minnesota's Mall of America was specifically mentioned. Mall of America officials said in a statement they are aware of the threat and have increased security.

The Department of Homeland Security and FBI said Sunday they have been working closely with local law enforcement to heighten awareness and prevent mall attacks, even prior to the most recent threat.

Things to know:
The U.S. government has been focused on al-Shabaab. In early February, the Pentagon announced an airstrike targeting the organization's senior leader, Yusef Dheeq. The strike occurred Jan. 31 near Dinsoor, Somalia. The Pentagon did not confirm Dheeq's death, though the Washington Post wrote an anonymous source confirmed Dheeq was killed.

U.S. forces have killed several al-Shabaab leaders in the past six months. According to the Center for Security Policy, drone strikes killed Ahmed Abdi Godane, the organization's leader as of September 2014 when he was killed, and Abdishakur Tahliil, who was the organization's leader until his death by a drone strike in late-December. CSP said Godane led al-Shabaab's international focus.

The mall threat is considered propaganda. According to a statement released by Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Marsha Catron, the department is "not aware of any specific, credible plot against the Mall of America or any other domestic, commercial shopping center." Officials are urging shoppers to remain vigilant. 

The White House is heavily focused on extremism. On Feb. 19, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security said in a media release its top officials had just concluded participating in a three-day White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. "Secretary (of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson) emphasized that in the complex and constantly evolving threat environment, our homeland security mission must involve the public." The release said Johnson "reiterated that DHS has taken a whole-of-government approach to best support federal, state, and local efforts to counter violent extremism across the country."