'No imminent threat' to West Edmonton Mall, RCMP say
Andrea Janus and Michael Shulman, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, February 22, 2015 8:48AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, February 22, 2015 10:15PM EST
City police said there is “no imminent threat to Edmonton” after al-Shabab released a propaganda video on Sunday calling on Muslim fighters to launch attacks and named Canada’s West Edmonton Mall as a potential target.
At a news conference Sunday afternoon, police said they are working closely with mall security and sharing information with the RCMP after the al Qaeda-linked rebel group in Somalia issued a video that urged attacks on shopping malls in the United States, Canada and Europe.
Al-Shabab was behind a 2013 shopping mall attack in Nairobi in which 67 people were killed.
Edmonton Deputy Police Chief Brian Simpson said police are taking the issue seriously, but they have not identified a "specific threat."
"I have to emphasize I feel West Edmonton mall is very safe, I also feel that this community is very safe," he added.
Simpson said that the best way to deal with terror threats is ensure there are open lines of communication between the community and police.
He added that it is important that Canadians do not succumb to the feelings of fear that al-Shabab intended to incite.
"We need to do our day-to-day business," Simpson said. "That's 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."
Edmonton police asked people to speak to authorities if they see any individual who is "demonstrating radicalized behaviour."
'All it takes is a man with firm determination'
In an hour-long propaganda video posted to YouTube earlier on Saturday, al-Shabab recounted its attack on the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya in 2013. The siege lasted for days and targeted innocent shoppers.
In the video, a man who is completely concealed by a headscarf implored "our Muslim brothers, particularly those in the West, to answer the call of Allah and target the disbelievers wherever they are.
“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?" the man goes on.
"What if such an attack was to occur in the Mall of America in Minnesota, or the West Edmonton Mall in Canada?"
He goes on to say that "all it takes is a man with firm determination" to launch a successful attack.
"So hurry up, hasten towards heaven and do not hesitate, for the disbelievers have no right whatsoever to rejoice in the safety of their lands until safety becomes a reality in Palestine and all the lands of Islam."
Federal Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney released a statement on Sunday condemning the video released by al-Shabab.
He said that law enforcement agencies will continue to "monitor for threats" and take the "appropriate actions" to protect Canadians.
A spokesperson for the West Edmonton Mall said they were aware of a video mentioning the facility, and have implemented extra security measures as they monitor the situation.
"As always, we take any potential threat seriously and respond appropriately. West Edmonton Mall has implemented extra security precautions; some may be noticeable to guests, and others won’t be," the statement read.
Shoppers confident in security
Shoppers who turned up at the mall on Sunday expressed some concerns, but seemed confident in security.
"Every time I go to (West Edmonton Mall) there are always so many cops, so … I'm a little scared but I'm really not that worried," Millie Cameron told CTV Edmonton.
"Security in the mall is so good, so there's no worry about it," said Miguel Santelices.
Alberta RCMP said Sunday that officers are looking into the "exact contents and authenticity" of the video. However, "there is no evidence at this time of any specific or imminent threat to Canadians."
"The RCMP together with its partners in law enforcement will continue to investigate threats posed by terrorist entities to ensure Albertans and all Canadians stay safe," read the statement provided to CTV News.
Alberta Premier Jim Prentice issued a statement to say that he shares Albertans' concerns about the threat, but urged residents to carry on with their normal activities.
"Our law enforcement and security services do excellent work in keeping Albertans safe, and I am confident they are treating this matter seriously," Prentice said.
"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."
Call to Edmonton's Somali community
Edmonton's mayor, Don Iveson, said in a statement on Sunday that it was "concerning" to hear that al-Shabab's appeal was directed at the city's Somali community.
"I fully expect they would be as offended as other Edmontonians at any suggestion of violence," he said.
Iveson added that people in the city should feel "confident" that Edmonton is safe.
An estimated 20,000 Somalis reside in Edmonton, making it one of the largest Somali communities in the Western world.
Both the Mall of America in Minnesota and the West Edmonton Mall are owned by the Ghermezian family. The patriarch of the family moved from Iran to Canada the 1960s, and his four sons turned the family business into a construction and real estate empire.
The largest population of Somalis in the U.S. is Minnesota, and the state has been the target of terror recruiters in the past.
The Mall of America, which was listed as potential target, is located in Bloomington, Minn.
In the last eight years, more than 22 Somali men have left the state for Somalia to join al-Shabab.
The Islamic extremist group has been waging an insurgency in Somalia for years in the hopes of one day governing Somalia by its radical interpretation of Sharia law.
While Somali forces have pushed the al-Qaeda-linked militants out of the capital of Mogadishu, suicide bombers have targeted government officials throughout the country. They have also expanded their attacks into eastern African nations that have aided Somalia in its fight against terrorism.
The United States has targeted al-Shabab militants with airstrikes in recent months, killing the group's leader last September and intelligence chief last December.
With files from The Associated Press and a report from CTV Edmonton's Amanda Anderson