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FBI, police monitor local malls amid terror threats

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SAN DIEGO — Law enforcement authorities in the San Diego area sought Monday to assure the public that they were taking all possible security steps in the aftermath of a Somalia-based terror group’s threat to do violence at malls in the United States and other Western countries.

“Protecting public safety and national security is our highest priority,” FBI spokesman Darrell Foxworth said. “We are aware of the reported call from Al-Shabaab for `Westgate style’ attacks against shopping centers around the world, to include in the United States.”

In recent months, the FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security “have worked closely with our state and local public-safety counterparts and members of the private sector, (including) mall owners and operators, to prevent and mitigate these types of threats,” Foxworth stated.

Officials with the San Diego Police Department likewise stressed that they “take all threats very seriously.”

“We work closely with our federal, state and local law enforcement agencies as well as private security entities to enhance security measures,” said SDPD public-affairs Lt. Scott Wahl. “We also ask the public if you see, hear, or know something to say something.”

Wahl said he was not aware of any terror threats specific to San Diego.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department released a statement asserting that it was “in close contact with our other local, federal and state law enforcement partners and (has) not received any credible threat information.”

“If that changes, we will certainly let the community know as soon as possible,” agency spokeswoman Jan Caldwell said. “The public is reminded if they see something, say something and call law enforcement.”

Referencing its September 2013 attack at an upscale mall in Kenya, jihadist militant group Al-Shabaab on Saturday released an online call for attacks on shopping centers in the United Kingdom and North America. More than 60 people died in the Nairobi siege, which lasted four days.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Sunday that there was “no credible or specific evidence’ suggesting a U.S. mall attack was being planned. He warned Americans, however, to be mindful of the possibility of such violence and to exercise a prudent level of alertness in public places.

Westfield Corp., which operates numerous malls in the San Diego area and the rest of the Southland, issued a statement saying it “will take every available step to keep our shopping centers safe for staff, retailers and customers.”

“Westfield Corporation’s policy is to not publicly disclose security procedures; however our heads of security in the U.S. and U.K. continue to coordinate their activities with police and government agencies,” the company asserted. “As usual, significant resources continue to be devoted to security arrangements in our shopping centers, and they continue to operate as normal.”

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