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Mall of America patrons told to be careful on terror threat

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Visitors to the Mall of America must be "particularly careful" after a terror group threatened the Minneapolis-area tourist attraction, the US Homeland Security secretary said.

[WASHINGTON] Visitors to the Mall of America must be "particularly careful" after a terror group threatened the Minneapolis-area tourist attraction, the US Homeland Security secretary said.

Jeh Johnson's comments during an interview Sunday on CNN's State Of The Union programme followed the release of a video Saturday by the terror group al-Shabaab that called for attacks in Canada, the US and the UK, according to the news network.

"If anyone is planning to go to the Mall of America today, they've got to be particularly careful," Mr Johnson said. He said later on NBC's Meet The Press that he wasn't telling people to steer clear of the mall.

Bloomington, Minnesota, police increased security at the mall by putting more officers in place, among other things, Deputy Chief Rick Hart said in an e-mail. There is no "credible threat" against the mall at this time, he said.

Gunmen from al-Shabaab, based in Somalia, attacked a shopping mall in Kenya in September 2013.

At least 67 people died during the attack, which lasted for days. Minneapolis is home to one of the largest Somali populations in the US, and federal officials have said al-Shabaab lured recruits from the region.

The world is dealing with a "new phase" of global terrorism, Mr Johnson said on NBC.

Previously, terror groups would train recruits to commit acts of violence and then send them into other countries to carry out plans. Now, such groups are using the Internet and social media to push people to carry out attacks on their own, he said.

TOURIST TRAFFIC

"I'm sure security at the mall will be enhanced in ways visible and not visible," Johnson said in his NBC interview. "There needs to be an awareness" by the public as well, he said.

Mall of America has "implemented extra security precautions, some may be noticeable to guests, and others won't be," according to an e-mailed statement by Dan Jasper, a spokesman.

"We will continue to follow the situation, along with law enforcement, and will remain vigilant as we always do in similar situations."

The complex has more than 500 stores and attracts 40 million visitors a year, about two-fifths of them tourists, according to its website. It's owned by Triple Five Group, an Edmonton, Alberta-based development company.

There was little apparent effect on business at the mall on Sunday. Tenants were made aware of the threat and one security officer could be seen wearing a bulletproof vest.

Funding Fight Royal Canadian Mounted Police are also investigating the "exact contents and authenticity" of the video allegedly from the terror group because it contains a threat against Canada's West Edmonton Mall, Canadian Press reported.

That mall is also owned by Triple Five Group.

Mr Johnson's interviews on several Sunday morning US news shows aired five days before funding for the Department of Homeland Security is set to lapse. Such an event would trigger a shutdown of non-essential agency operations unless Congress enacts new funds.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner want to use a spending bill to force President Barack Obama to reverse his orders shielding undocumented immigrants from being deported.

On Monday, Mr McConnell will try for a fourth time to advance a House-passed Homeland Security spending bill, H.R. 240, that would require Mr Obama to abandon the immigration action he announced in November.

COURT SYSTEM

Democrats have blocked the measure three times. They say Congress should fund Homeland Security, which is responsible for immigration and border enforcement, without setting new limits on immigration policy. Democrats have said they are holding firm in defence of the president's policies.

The Justice Department is preparing to appeal a judge's order last week that blocked Obama from implementing his immigration policy changes. On Monday, the administration also will seek an emergency order allowing the president's plans to proceed during the appeal.

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona said in an interview on CBS's Face The Nation on Sunday that he didn't support efforts to shut the government down and that the federal court system is the "best way" to resolve the impasse.

"But have no doubt I am angry, as are my constituents in a border state, that the president of the United States would unconstitutionally issue the executive orders he did," Mr McCain said.

'SKELETON CREW'

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, urged Republicans to fund the department and fight Mr Obama's actions in court.

"The worst possible option is to defund the Department of Homeland Security," Mr Graham said on ABC's This Week programme. "And I will not be part of that." Mr Johnson said separately on Sunday that he plans to be on Capitol Hill "continuously" this week to press for an end to the stalemate.

During a shutdown, while 80 per cent to 85 per cent of the department's employees would be required to come to work, many wouldn't be paid on time, Mr Johnson said at a cyber-security panel at a National Governors Association meeting in Washington.

About 30,000 employees would be furloughed, with headquarters in "skeleton crew" mode, he said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency would have 80 per cent of its workforce furloughed at a time of severe weather in parts of the US, Mr Johnson said. The agency would also be unable to process disaster-aid claims during a shutdown, he said.

BLOOMBERG