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Terror Video Encourages Attack On Mall Chain With Chicago-Area Locations

(CBS) –  A terror group with ties to al-Qaeda released an online video Saturday appearing to call for attacks on Western malls, including at least one U.S. shopping center.

There is no credible, serious threat to a location in the Chicago region, but CBS 2's Chelsea Irving reports one area police agency is taking the message seriously.

In the 75-minute video released Saturday, Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab calls for lone followers to attack Western targets.

The speaker specifically mentions the Mall of America in Minnesota. In the last five minutes of the video, the logo of Westfield shopping centers appears. The addresses in the video are for Westfield malls in England, but the speaker calls for attacks on any Westfield mall.

In the U.S., Westfield has 38 malls in eight states. Three are in the Chicago region: in Aurora, Skokie and Vernon Hills.

"We are in receipt of the information and planning accordingly," Aurora police spokesperson Dan Ferrelli told CBS 2 when asked about the terror threat.

"We are aware of the video and are taking prompt and appropriate steps to address the issue. As always, we strongly encourage anyone who observes anything or anyone that they feel is suspicious, to call 911 immediately." said Vernon Hills Police Sgt. Jeff Cielak.

Chicago police, meanwhile, said they were aware of the information in the terror-sponsored video.

"We are always coordinating closely with our federal and local law enforcement partners, including DHS, FBI and others on any possible threats, though there are no known threats to Chicago at this time and this video does not reference any locations in the city," a spokesperson said.

Somali-based al-Shabaab has a history of mall attacks.  In 2013 the group took responsibility for an attack on a shopping mall in Kenya. A four-day siege of the mall ended with 60 people dead.

Earlier this week, they claimed responsibility for an attack at a hotel in Somalia that killed 25 people and wounded 40 others.

CBS 2 security consultant Ross Rice says using the Internet to call for an attack is sadly an effective way to reach a solitary individual who could turn into a terrorist.

"This is the only way (terror groups) have to strike at us right now," he says.

Westfield representatives could not be reached for comment.

An FBI spokesperson in Chicago says as always, the agency encourages shoppers to remain vigilant, and report any suspicious activity to security.




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