Expert Says Al-Shabaab Threat Against Jewish-Owned Malls Shows Increased Jihadi Focus on Jewish Targets
A chilling video threat issued over the weekend by Somali terror group al-Shabaab against specific Jewish-owned malls provides further indication that Islamist groups around the world are setting their sights on Jewish targets, a leading expert on Jewish security and terrorist threats told The Algemeiner on Sunday.
“The most recent threat by al-Shabaab against malls, and more specifically against Jewish-owned institutions around the world, is another indication that global jihadi groups are increasingly focusing on Jews and Jewish institutions as a way to rally support for their cause,” said Dr. Joshua Gleis, president of Gleis Security Consulting.
Al-Shabaab’s recording, posted to YouTube on Saturday, mostly glorifies the group’s bloody 2013 attack on the Jewish-owned Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya which left 63 people dead and at least 175 wounded.
Towards the end of the nearly 77 minute video, a masked man with an English accent calls on Jihadists to attack specific targets
“If just a handful of mujahedeen fighters could bring Kenya to a complete standstill for nearly a week, then imagine what a dedicated mujahedeen in the West could do to the American or Jewish-owned shopping centers across the world,” he says.
“What if such an attack was to occur in the Mall of America in Minnesota, or the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, or in London’s Oxford Street, or any of the hundred or so Jewish-owned Westfield shopping centers dotted right across the western world?” he continues.
Other malls listed in the video include two in Paris, Les Quatre Temps and Forum des Halles, Canada’s CBC News reported.
The Mall of America is owned, and the West Edmonton Mall is managed by the Iranian-Jewish Ghermezian family.
According to CNN, al-Shabaab has recruited members in Minneapolis, home to the largest Somali population in the United States and located close to the Mall of America.
Responding to the video in an interview on CNN, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said, “This latest statement from al-Shabaab reflects the new phase we’ve evolved to in the global terrorist threat, in that you have groups such as al-Shabaab and ISIL publicly calling for independent actors in their homelands to carry out attacks.”
Regarding the specific threat to Mall of America, Johnson said: “Anytime a terrorist organization calls for an attack on a specific place, we’ve got to take that seriously.” He advised people going to the Mall of America to be particularly careful, Reuters reported.
Reuters also reported that Staff Sergeant Brent Meyer of Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police said authorities are looking into the video but “there is no evidence at this time of any specific or imminent threat to Canadians.”
“West Edmonton Mall has implemented extra security precautions; some may be noticeable to guests, and others won’t be,” he said in a statement.
Last July, al-Shabaab spokesman Ali Dhere issued another threat against Jews in a speech at a Barawa mosque in Somalia, The Jerusalem Post reported at the time.
Dhere called upon Muslims to stand up and take revenge for their Muslim brothers in Gaza, saying: “The Jews are spread out throughout the world, and the Jews’ properties are spread everywhere. In light of this, the Muslims must attack the Jews and their properties in every place, and they must pray for their brothers in Gaza.”
After the Westgate Mall attack in 2013, Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League said it underscored the terror group’s battle against Jews and Israel.
The ADL cited Sheikh Abulaziz Abu Muscab, a spokesman for the group, who said they picked the target because it is a place “where there are Jewish and American shops. So we have to attack them.”
In 2012, Kenyan supporters of al-Shabaab published a predominantly Swahili-language online terrorist magazine featuring English-language articles that describe Jews as “the worst enemy of Islam,” the ADL said. The magazine, titled Gaidi Mtaani, roughly translated as “Terrorism Street,” cast “the Zionist with their American partners” as the beneficiaries of the “crusade” in Somalia and criticized the Kenyan president for traveling to Israel to secure Israeli cooperation for counterterrorism efforts.
Al-Shabaab’s most recent threat follows deadly Islamist attacks at a synagogue in Copenhagen that left one dead, and at a supermarket in Paris that killed four Jews as they shopped for Shabbat.