NEW DELHI: Terror group Al Shabaab released a graphic video calling for 'Westgate-style' attacks on shopping centers across the United States, Canada and United Kingdom.

In the video, a militant donning a camouflage jacket and headscarf, refers to the brutal attack on West Gate Mall in Nairobi that killed 67 people. The video specifically mentions the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota -- with an image of the mall along with its GPS coordinates being featured. It also mentions West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada, Oxford Street and Westfield Mall in London.

“If just a handful of mujahideen fighters could bring Kenya to a complete stand-still for nearly a week, just imagine what the dedicated mujahideen could do in the West to American or Jewish shopping centers across the world,” the militant in the video says. “What if such an attack were to occur in the Mall of America in Minnesota? Or the West Edmonton Mall in Canada? Or in London's Oxford Street?.”

Malls and shopping centers have taken extra security precautions after the video. US homeland security chief Jeh Johnson urged shoppers to be on guard whilst visiting the Mall of America. “I would say that if anyone is planning to go to the Mall of America today, they've got to be particularly careful,” Mr Johnson said during an appearance on CNN's 'State of the Union.’ “This latest statement from Al Shabaab reflects the new phase we've evolved to in the global terrorist threat in that you have groups such as Al Shabaab, ISIL [ie. the Islamic State, or ISIS], publicly calling for independent actors in their home lands to carry out attacks.”

However, it is important to note that Al Shabaab has made similar calls to action before, as have other groups, including the Islamic State. The Syria and Iraq based militants have repeatedly listed targets in similar propaganda videos, including major airlines and US-based billionaires. CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues correctly notes that Al Shabaab has made threats like this before and in previous videos have called for Western Muslims to conduct attacks around the world. But those threats, according to US Intelligence sources were, "without result," and the attack on Westgate -- as well as Al Shabaab's previous English-language praise of the attack -- did not mobilize operatives. US officials believe "homegrown violent extremists are not likely to respond immediately to Al Shabaab's encouragement."

Nevertheless, as the Charlie Hebdo attacks or the Sydney Cafe siege indicate, attacks by individuals or groups inspired by but not directly linked to any terrorist outfit can occur with deadly consequences.

Al Shabaab rarely grabs international headlines although the group is brutally active across Somalia and Kenya. Recent attacks include an attack on Central Hotel in Mogadishu just a day earlier on February 20, an attack that killed 36 quarry workers in northeast Kenya in December last year, an attack on a bus in near Mandera that killed 28 in November, and an attack on a restaurant popular with foreigners in downtown Djibouti that killed 20 people in May.

The group however, is internationally known for its attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi in September 2013, which it said was in retribution for the Kenyan government’s decision to send troops into Somalia to fight alongside government forces.

Al Shabaab declared jihad on Kenya as far back as 2010 on allegations that the Kenyan government was training Somali troops, which Kenya denied. This threat was heightened post 2011 when the Kenyan government sent troops as part of a United Nations backed African Union force that pushed Al Shabaab militants out of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu in 2011, and out of the vital port of Kismayo in 2012. The port has been a vital asset for the militants, enabling supplies to reach areas under the group’s control and providing taxes for its operations.

After 2011, Al Shabaab’s influence in Somalia was reduced from control over large swathes of the country’s central and southern areas, including its capital, to limited rural areas. Kenyan troops continue to serve as part of the African Union force, playing a pivotal role in capturing areas from Al Shabaab’s control.

The Al Shabaab group carries out attacks within Somalia often. In March last year, the militants led a suicide raid on a hotel in the southern town of Buuloburde, killing a number of people days after the town was recaptured from the militants. The attack followed an assault on a military convoy near the capital city, killing four Somali soldiers. In February, 14 people were killed as the group attacked the Somali presidential palace although Somali president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was unharmed.

Al Shabaab’s control of parts of Somalia’s countryside and smaller towns is being used by the militants as a launchpad to plan and execute attacks in the country and beyond Somalia’s borders, examples being the attacks in Kenya. In addition to Kenya, the group has specifically targeted Uganda, also a neighbouring country that has contributed fighters to the African Union force. The deadliest attack in Uganda by the militant group killed 64 people in Kampala as they watched the World Cup final in 2010.

The group, which has links to Al Qaeda, has denounced the 2012 election of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, which was backed by a UN-brokered peace process, as a foreign plot to control Somalia. The group’s rise to influence can be located within the political context of Somalia, which has lacked an effective national government for over twenty years, making the group’s promise of security appealing to the country’s population. The Somali government maintains that the group’s presence is on the decline and the militants are on the verge of being defeated. A Twitter account run by the President’s office posted, “Don't be fooled by this media spectacular [sic]. This is another act of desperation from a dying animal,” following the attack on the palace.

Is Al Shabaab a “dying animal”? These latest incidents prove otherwise.