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Terrorist Threats Cause Tension At Local Malls

TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) -- A terrorist group's YouTube video creates alarm and heightened security after threatening attacks at America's shopping malls.

Derek Valcourt has details on the video threat and the concerns it's raising.

Intelligence officials remain skeptical this terrorist group could actually carry out the attacks but still malls across the country and shoppers are asked to stay vigilant.

Safety lockdown drills were held Monday at Minnesota's Mall of America just days after West African terror group Al Shabab released a video calling on Muslims to attack that shopping center and others in the US and Canada. FBI officials are now working with mall owners nationwide to boost security.

"If anyone has go to to go to the Mall of America today, they've got to be particularly careful," said Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security secretary.

Al Shabab is an al-Qaeda linked group that claimed responsibility for the 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, that killed more than 60 people. US authorities say there is "no credible" evidence that a US mall attack is imminent.

"But we certainly are mindful of the threat that exists," said White House Press Secretary John Ernest.

Many malls in Maryland declined to speak with us on camera about the terror threats. Instead they issued a statement saying they take the safety of their customers very seriously. Others pointed us to a trade group: the International Council of Shopping Centers.

"You may see shopping centers increase the number of security officers that are on patrol in the center. Centers may also ask local police departments to walk the mall, basically trying to create a very visible presence," said Malachy Kavanah, International Council of Shopping Centers.

"We should not be panicking," said Michael Greenberger, University of Maryland Homeland Security Center. "We should be redoubling our efforts to protect ourselves."

Greenberger tells WJZ terrorists are counting on help from extremists already in the US.

"It could be one person who develops an improvised explosive device and sets it off in the Mall of America and that would be a worldwide and shocking event," Greenberger said.

Greenberger points out these threats come at a time when the GOP-controlled Congress is threatening to shut down the Department of Homeland Security over their frustration with the president. Funding for the Department of Homeland Security is set to expire Friday.

Al Shabob is a Somali-based terror group---Minneapolis, home to the Mall of America, has the largest Somali population in the US.

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