Gulf of Aden Security Review - April 13, 2012

Yemen: Al Qaeda-linked militants destroy an electrical station in Lawder while clashes continue in Abyan; 50 Republican Guard soldiers and officers reportedly detained in Sana’a following pro-revolution protests; fresh attacks reported on Ma’rib-Sana’a power supply lines; American found guilty of attempting to join al Qaeda and fight U.S. troops in Iraq

Horn of Africa: Eight hundred and fifty Kenyan troops to return home; Danish navy ship frees hostages and captures Somali pirates; rumor spreads that Omar Hammami may have been executed earlier this month; TFG president promises Puntland that he will help it fight al Shabaab; there is reportedly tension between TFG president and prime minister over national theater bombing; al Shabaab bans the sale and consumption of qat

Yemen Security Brief

  • Al Qaeda-linked militants reportedly demolished an electrical station using a tank in Lawder on April 12. Tribal sources reported that two tribesmen were killed in the attack. In addition, local residents reported that Yemeni warplanes struck a suspected Ansar al Sharia base in Shaqra in Abyan governorate. Sources also reported clashes on the outskirts of Lawder that killed one tribesman and one militant named, “Kazimi.”[1]
  • Military sources stated that 50 officers and soldiers of the Republican Guard have been detained in military jails in Sana’a after protests broke out in the camps. The Yemeni interior ministry and the military committee called for the release of all of the detainees.[2]
  • The Yemeni government said that saboteurs attacked power supply lines in al Jada’an district in Ma’rib that supply electricity to Sana’a.[3]
  • Tarek Mehanna, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen convicted of attempting to help al Qaeda, was sentenced on April 12 to a 17-and-a-half years prison sentence. Mehanna was found guilty of traveling to Yemen in December to seek training in jihadist camps with the intention of going to Iraq to fight U.S. troops. In the U.S. District Court in Boston, Mehanna said, “In your eyes I'm a terrorist. I'm the only one standing here in an orange jumpsuit,” adding, “America will change and recognize this trial for what it is.”[4]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Eight hundred and fifty Kenyan troops are scheduled to return home out of the approximately 4,600 Kenyan soldiers now in Somalia. They will be replaced by a Sierra Leonean contingent, which will arrive in Somalia in the coming months.[5]
  • A Danish navy ship, the Absalon, boarded a pirate “mothership” off the Horn of Africa on April 12, capturing 16 pirates and freeing 12 captives. The hostages, three Iranians and nine Pakistanis, were captured about a month ago. The pirates surrendered without a fight.[6]
  • There is speculation that Omar Hammami, the American al Shabaab leader, was executed on April 4 by other al Shabaab members. Hammami appeared in a video last month in which he said he was afraid for his life due to disagreements within the organization.[7]
  • Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the president of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), promised the government of semi-autonomous Puntland on April 12 that the TFG would help it in its fight against al Shabaab.[8]
  • There is reported tension between Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohammed Ali over who is responsible for the April 4 bombing of Mogadishu’s national theater. According to MP Ali Mohamud Farah, the two are pointing the finger at each other. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack the day it was carried out.[9]
  • Al Shabaab announced a ban on the sale and consumption of qat, a mild leafy narcotic widely chewed in Yemen and the Horn of Africa. Its fighters were seen on April 12 telling people through loudspeakers to abstain from chewing the plant.[10]      

[1] “Al Qaeda-Linked Militants Destroy an Electrical Station in Lawder and Clashes Continue in Abyan,” Al Masdar Online, April 12, 2012. Available: http://almasdaronline.com/index.php?page=news&article-section=1&news_id=30814
[2] “50 Officers, Soldiers Detained inside Military Jails,” Yemen Post, April 12, 2012. Available: http://yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=5095&MainCat=3
[3] “New Sabotage Attack on Ma’rib-Sana’a Power Supply Lines,” April 13, 2012. Available: http://www.sabanews.net/ar/news265706.htm
[4] “Mass. Man Given 17 1/2 Years on Terror Counts,” AP, April 12, 2012. Available: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=150474643
[5] Fred Mukinda, “850 Kenyan Troops to Return from Somalia,” April 12, 2012. Available: http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/1385396/-/ysr4oez/-/
[6] “Danish Navy Frees Hostages from Pirates off Somalia,” Reuters, April 12, 2012. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/12/piracy-africa-denmark-idUSL6E8FC4SG20120412
[7] “Was Hammami Killed in Somalia on April 4, 2012?” Selected Wisdom, April 12, 2012. Available: http://selectedwisdom.com/?p=612
[8] “Somali President Says the Government will Help Puntland Fighting on al-Shabab,” Shabelle Media Network, April 12, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/2012/04/12/somali-president-says-his-government-will-help-puntland-fighting-on-al-shabab/
[9] “Somali President, PM Disagree over the Responsibility of National Theater Blast,” Shabelle Media Network, April 13, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/2012/04/13/somali-president-pm-disagree-over-the-responsibility-of-national-theater-blast/
[10] “Al Shabab Bans Chewing, Selling Khat in Southern Somalia Regions,” Shabelle Media Network, April 12, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/2012/04/12/al-shabab-bans-chewing-selling-khat-in-southern-somalia-regions/