WASHINGTON - The US Homeland Security Department said on Sunday it was not aware of any specific plot against US shopping malls, backing away from comments by the department's chief that he takes seriously a threat by Somali-based Islamist militants against the Mall of America in Minnesota and other shopping sites in the West.
Some US and Canadian officials had earlier cast doubt on the credibility of the threat made in a video attributed to al Shabaab, which appeared to call for attacks on Western shopping areas, specifically mentioning Mall of America, the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, London's Oxford Street and sites in Paris.
Asked on the CNN program "State of the Union" on Sunday morning about the threat to Mall of America, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh 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, which is one of the world's largest shopping areas, to be particularly careful.
Hours later, Homeland Security Department spokeswoman Marsha Catron said the department and the FBI had shared information about the video with local law enforcement and "private sector partners."
"As a general matter, however, we are not aware of any specific, credible plot against the Mall of America or any other domestic commercial shopping center," she said in a statement.