Al-Shabaab burst onto the documentary filmmaking scene this weekend with a new video explaining the grisly Westgate mall attack and suggesting shopping targets for other jihadists.
The 1-hour and 16-minute film is not only slickly produced but the Somali terror group’s video puts ISIS to shame with its high production value and splicing of interviews, news footage, graphics and photos to perfectly mimic a documentary.
The film was released in English and Arabic. The narrator on the English-language film, watched by PJM, has his face obscured by a balaclava and a fuzzy bar over his eyes. That move by Al-Kataib, the media arm of Al-Shabaab, could be in response to western intelligence’s claim to have identified ISIS spokesman and killer “Jihadi John” through his voice, eyes, and build.
The Shabaab narrator speaks perfect English with a Somali accent.
Beginning with a history of how Shabaab thinks the Kenyan “kuffar” have wronged them, the narrator doesn’t mention the September 2013 attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi until the 43-minute mark. “Westgate was perhaps the only natural response to blatant Kenyan aggression,” he says.
The Shabaab production rips security camera footage and interviews from the HBO documentary Terror at the Mall. It highlights bungles of the Kenyan government and security forces, from the number of terrorists claimed to have been inside the building and arrested or killed to allegations that Kenyan soldiers looted stores. It features exclusive audio reels of calls from the terrorists back to their Shabaab handlers.
The film is laid out as both a regional defense of aggression and a call for broader jihad against the “crusaders” worldwide. “Headed towards you are men who love death more than you love life,” the narrator warns.
At the conclusion of the film, he suggests targets with coordinates: the Mall of America in Minnesota, which is the largest mall in the U.S., and the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, which is the largest mall in North America.
He also suggests attacking shops along Oxford Street in London or any of the “Israeli-owned” Westgate malls worldwide, including Canada, Croatia, the UK, Singapore and six locations in the United States.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told ABC this morning that the video reflects the “new phase we’ve evolved in terms of the global terrorist threat and what we need to do in terms of counterterrorism.”
“Groups like ISIL, al Shabaab, AQAP are now publicly calling for attacks either through the internet, through videos, through publications, which means that we need to respond militarily, but we also have to have a whole of government approach through law enforcement, homeland security and frankly countering violent extremism efforts here in the homeland, in communities,” Johnson said.
He told CNN “we’re in an environment right now where I suspect these groups are competing for attention.”
“Any time a terrorist organization calls for an attack on a specific place, we have got to take that seriously,” Johnson said specifically of the Mall of America threat. “And so, through our intelligence bulletins, through working with state and local law enforcement, through working with the FBI, we take this kind of thing very seriously.”
The Mall of America said in a statement that it’s “aware of a threatening video that was released which included a mention and images of the mall.”
“We take any potential threat seriously and respond appropriately. We have implemented extra security precautions. Some may be noticeable to guests, and others won’t.”
Johnson said he thinks it’s safe at the mall, but everyone should be vigilant. “It’s all the more reason why I need a budget,” he added in a needle at Congress.