Saturday's hostage standoff between Kenyan police and members of an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group continues on Sunday at a shopping mall in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.
On Saturday, approximately 15 Somalian gunmen ambushed an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, armed with AK-47 assault weapons and grenades, killing at least 59 and wounding 172 other innocent victims. a
In a statement by the U.S. State Department on Saturday, State Department Spokeswoman, Marie Harf confirmed the reports of American citizens injured in the attack. Harf said the U.S. Embassy was actively reaching out to provide assistance.
Al-Shabab, a Somalia based Islamic terrorist group claimed responsibility for Saturday's deadly terrorist attack on the Westgate mall on the group's Twitter feed. Al-Shabab's tweet said the group had repeatedly warned Kenya's government that failure to remove its forces from Somalia "would have severe consequences."
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI continue to monitor al-Shabab terrorist cells operating inside the United States. Federal prosecutors described members of al Shabab in Minnesota as part of a “deadly pipeline,” that provides financial support and fighters from the U.S. to Somalia.
In October, 2011, a 22 year-old American from Minnesota, Abdisalan Hussein Ali, was identified as one of two suicide bombers disguised as soldiers involved in a terrorist attack on the Somali capital that killed at least 10 people. Ali was the third known suicide bomber from Minnesota.
Two weeks prior to the suicide attack in 2011, two Minnesota women were convicted of conspiring to funnel money to al-Shabab in Somalia.
According to the FBI, more Americans have joined the Somalian terrorist group Al-Shabab, than any other terrorist organization. The majority of American members of Al- Shabab are from the Somali community in Minneapolis.
As the Kenyan shopping mall mayhem unfolds on live television, American security experts and scholars are debating the likelihood that a similar attack could happen at U.S. shopping malls.
Both the U.S. government and shopping mall's management downplay the possibility of such an attack. To admit that it is indeed possible, and many security experts say is not a question of "if" but when terrorists will strike a shopping mall on American soil is bad for business. In 2009, one expert called it a miracle that an attack at a mall had not already happened in the United States.
Since 2010, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has extended the "If You See Something, Say Something" awareness campaign to much of the nation's privately owned public space, described as "soft targets." Soft targets are attractive to terrorists because of lack of security and opportunity to harm a large number of people that gather in enclosed spaces.
Shopping malls are considered "soft targets" for terrorist attacks because they are private property, therefore they are not regulated by the Federal Government.
The vast majority, an estimated 85 percent of U.S. infrastructure is privately owned, in addition to shopping malls, the list includes airports, public transportation systems, hotels, churches, universities, sports arenas and movie theaters.
Worldwide, shopping malls have long been a favorite target for terrorists. Several plots have been interrupted in the U.S. and several more identified in the planning stages in police raids which turned up photographs, maps and architectural plans.
A few examples include the arrest of a man in Illinois that FBI accused of making phone threats to blow up the Northpark Mall in Davenport, Iowa. Another attempt to bomb a shopping mall occurred in June, 2011, when two "partially functioned" crude devices were discovered by police at a bookstore in the Colorado Mills Mall in Lakewood, Colorado, a suburb of Denver.
In 2007, the FBI said it thwarted an al-Qaeda terrorist plot to attack shopping malls in Los Angeles and Chicago during the busy Christmas rush.