The latest warning comes on the heels of the deadly terrorist attack on an upscale Nairobi shopping mall, in which al-Shabab said it targeted non-Muslims. A tense 4 day hostage standoff between Kenyan police and members of al-Shabab ended on Wednesday.
At least 67 people, including 18 foreigners were killed and scores more were wounded in the Westgate Shopping Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya on Saturday.
U.S. State Department officials warn that U.S. citizens and interests in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East could be targeted by terrorists employing suicide bombers, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings and bombings.
In particular, the warning lists potential targets, often referred to as "soft targets" such as sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, nightclubs restaurants, places of worship, schools, shopping malls and other tourist destinations where Americans gather in large numbers.
Soft targets, such as shopping malls are particularly attractive to terrorists for the lax security that leave them relatively unprotected and therefore easy targets. In al-Qaeda's manual, the terrorist organization encourages "spectacular attacks" that can kill thousands, or even millions of people and cripple both the American economy and damage the American psyche.
In 2010, the United States Department of Homeland Security first partnered with shopping malls including the Mall of America and retailers such as Walmart for the "See Something, Say Something" awareness campaign to encourage situation awareness by shoppers at public venues across the country.
In September, 2012, U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced plans to expand the public awareness campaign to more American shopping malls.
Eighty five percent of America's critical infrastructure is privately owned public space. Therefore, public-private partnerships between shopping mall management and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are encouraged, however not mandatory.
In an interview in 2008, a British security expert told me that such public/private partnerships are tricky, especially if mall owners are expected to voluntarily pay for additional security measures. If a mall's budget is limited and management has a choice between investing in sales promotions or adding additional security for vague or non specific terrorist threats, for retailers it's a "no brainer."