Somali terror group names West Edmonton Mall as possible target
Published Sunday, February 22, 2015 12:19PM MST Last Updated Sunday, February 22, 2015 6:23PM MST
Alberta police do not believe there is any imminent danger to the public following a terrorist threat against the West Edmonton Mall.
Officials said they confirmed the video by al-Shabaab encourages actions against malls, and even named the West Edmonton Mall as a possible target.
“At this time we have determined there is no imminent threat to Edmonton, Canada or its citizens,” Edmonton Police Service (EPS) Deputy Chief Brian Simpson told reporters Sunday.
“I have to emphasize I feel West Edmonton Mall is very safe. I also feel this community is very safe based on the nature of the threat we received, which was general not specific.”
The Somali terror group posted a propaganda video to YouTube Saturday recounting its attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya in 2013.
“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 centres across the world?" a man concealed by a headscarf said near the end of the video.
"What if such an attack was to occur in the Mall of America in Minnesota, or the West Edmonton Mall in Canada?"
Officials from the mall issued a statement saying they take any threats seriously.
“West Edmonton Mall has implemented extra security precautions; some may be noticeable to guests, and others won’t be. We will continue to follow the situation, along with law enforcement, and will remain vigilant as we always do in similar situations. The safety and security of our guests, employees and tenants remains our top priority.”
According to the United States National Counterrorism Center website “Al-Shabaab is not centralized or monolithic in its agenda or goals.
“Al-Shabaab’s senior leaders are affiliated with al-Qa‘ida and are believed to have trained and fought in Afghanistan.”
The website also says the two groups were merged in February of 2012.
A political science professor from the University of Alberta said he believed the video was al-Shabaab’s way of getting some recognition.
“This is what terrorist groups want, is publicity and recognition,” Tom Butko told CTV News.
He advised people to be cautious but not to let it affect their activities too much.
“Take the threat seriously, be vigilant but I don’t think it should prevent people in any way from going to the mall.”
In a written statement, Premier Jim Prentice said he has confidence in law enforcement and security services.
“While vigilance among the public is important, the ultimate victory over those who would do us harm is to live our lives in freedom. On this day, I would encourage all Albertans to do just that -- enjoy our friends, families and the province we love in the same way we always do."
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson advised residents not to overreact.
“My office is in constant contact with the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) and I am assured that the EPS is working closely with the RCMP as well as West Edmonton Mall Security. The EPS is also working with leaders in the Somali community. I am confident that the EPS is responding appropriately.
Edmontonians should feel confident that our city is safe, and that our law enforcement agencies and personnel are working to keep it that way."
Deputy Chief Simpson also stressed that residents should not overreact to the threat.
“We need to do our normal day-to-day business. That is how we effectively deal with this.
“We don’t give them more power than they deserve and quite frankly they don’t deserve any power because they are terrorists and they are trying to create terror.”
He also advised anyone who saw something suspicious to report it to the authorities.
“Our best opportunity to nullify that is by having good communication normalizing our day to day functions and when we see something suspicious notifying local authorities.”
The RCMP said they will continue to investigate threats from terrorist groups and will work to ensure Albertans remain safe.
With files from Nicole Weisberg