Gulf of Aden Security Review - April 2, 2012

Yemen: Ansar al Sharia militants seize strategic checkpoint in Lahij governorate, killing at least 23 Yemeni soldiers; militant attack on Hadramawt army base kills seven soldiers; artillery bombardment on Zinjibar kills six al Qaeda-linked militants; assassination attempts against security officials in Lahij and Hadramawt;  gas pipeline blown up in Shabwah governorate in retaliation for March 30 drone strike

Horn of Africa: One person killed and at least 20 wounded during twin terrorist attacks in Kenya; al Shabaab threatens attacks against Kenyans; public disagreements between al Shabaab officials; Ahlu Sunna launches attack on Hiraan town and claims to have driven out al Shabaab; four killed overnight in separate incidents in Mogadishu and Baidoa

Yemen Security Brief

  • At least 23 Yemeni troops were killed and 11 others wounded during an Ansar al Sharia attack on March 31. Dozens of Ansar al Sharia militants attacked and seized a checkpoint near the al Haroor area, which links Malah, a town in Lahij governorate, with Jaar in Abyan governorate. At least nine militants were killed and two others wounded during the assault. The militants were able to seize two trucks’ worth of heavy artillery and three tanks. Further, dozens of Yemeni troops surrendered. Fifteen captives, soldiers from the 119th Brigade, were executed a day later.[1]
  • Al Qaeda-linked militants attacked an army base near Shibam in Hadramawt governorate on April 1, killing seven Yemeni soldiers while they slept.[2]
  • Six al Qaeda-linked militants were killed during an artillery bombardment of Zinjibar. Among the dead, according to a local Yemeni official, was a Somali leader named Abu Bilal.[3]
  • The deputy director of political security in Lahij governorate survived an assassination attempt in Hawta on March 31. A man on a motorcycle sprayed the official with gunfire, injuring him. Security forces believe that this was linked with another assassination attempt, in which a bomb was planted in the car of a deputy director of central security in al Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt governorate. The car was blown up, but there were no casualties. Security officials consider al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) responsible for these events.[4]
  • Hours after the March 30 drone strike that left four al Qaeda-linked militants dead, militants blew up a gas pipeline that transports liquefied natural gas (LNG) to a facility at Belhaf port in southern Shabwah governorate. The facility is majority-owned by the French company Total. The blast occurred about 17.5 miles north of the facility.[5]
  • Daniel Benjamin, the Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the Department of State, met with Yemeni officials in Sana’a on April 1, including Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser Ahmed, Interior Minister Abdul Qadir Qahtan, Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al Qirbi, and Information Minister Ahmed Ali al Amrani. The officials discussed the security situation in Yemen; Yemeni officials expressed their appreciation for American assistance and Benjamin asserted that the U.S. would continue providing it, particularly in the security arena, and urged a national dialogue and the need for economic growth and good governance.[6]    

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Twin grenade attacks in Mombasa and Mtwapa, two coastal Kenyan cities, killed one person and wounded at least 20 others. The attack in Mtwapa targeted an open-air Christian meeting; the Mombasa attack occurred in a bar near the city’s main stadium. The following day, Kenyan officials promised to “finish” al Shabaab, but cautioned that other groups were being investigated as well.[7]
  • Al Shabaab, although not directly mentioning the twin attacks of March 31, promised that it would attack Kenya until its troops left Somalia, accusing the Kenyans of “bumbling incompetence.” The statement, available on the group’s Twitter feed, read in part: “The Kenyan public must be aware that the more Kenyan troops continue to persecute innocent Muslims of Somalia, the less secure Kenyan cities will be; and the more oppression the Muslims of Somalia feel, the more constricted Kenyan life will be. Such is the law of [Retribution]. Your security depends on our security. It is a long, protracted war and Kenyans must neither harbour a reason for optimism nor hope for triumph.”[8]
  • Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a senior leader of al Shabaab, publicly disagreed with a statement by al Shabaab’s commander, Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubair.  Godane declared that no jihadist group, other than al Shabaab, should be established in Somalia; Aweys disagreed, saying “One cannot limit or make jihad a membership, jihad is open to everyone who is willing to fight.” In a sermon at a mosque on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Aweys said on March 30, “Whoever does not agree with Al Shabaab’s ideology should be wiped out is not a method of Islam. The organization has made the killing of civilians lawful by making up their own laws.”[9]
  • Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a launched an attack on al Shabaab fighters in the town of Mahas in Hiraan district on April 1. At least ten people on both sides were killed in the ensuing clashes. Ahlu Sunna reported that they had regained control of the city, which was seized by al Shabaab on March 30.[10]
  • Two suspected al Shabaab militants threw grenades at a police station in Mogadishu’s Dharkenley district. No casualties were reported in this attack, but the assailants were killed by local TFG forces. An elder was reportedly killed in Mogadishu’s Shibis district, although it is not clear by whom. In Baidoa, unknown gunmen killed a TFG tax official. The three incidents occurred on the night of April 1.[11]      

[1] Hakim Almasmari, “Nearly Two Dozen Killed in Militant Attack on Yemen Checkpoint,” CNN, March 31, 2012. Available: http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/31/world/meast/yemen-militants/
“29 Killed in Yemen Army, Al-Qaeda Clashes: Officials,” AFP, March 31, 2012. Available: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2012/Mar-31/168694-29-killed-in-yemen-army-al-qaeda-clashes-officials.ashx#axzz1qt9GTeZA
“15 Yemeni Soldiers Executed by al-Qaida Militants,” Xinhua, April 2, 2012. Available: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2012-04/02/content_14969387.htm
[2] Ahmed al Haj, “Surprise Militant Attack Kills 7 Yemeni Soldiers,” AP, April 1, 2012. Available: http://www.boston.com/news/world/middleeast/articles/2012/04/01/surprise_militant_attack_kills_7_yemeni_soldiers/
[4] “Deputy Commander of Political Security in Lahij Escapes from Assassination Attempt,” Yemeni Ministry of Interior, April 1, 2012. Available: http://www.moi.gov.ye/NewsDetails.aspx?NewsID=12803
[5] “Mohammed Mukhashaf, “Yemen Gas Pipeline Blown Up, Output Halted After Drone Attacks,” Reuters, March 30, 2012. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/30/us-yemen-qaeda-drone-idUSBRE82T1E820120330
[6] “US Official: Economic Growth, Good Governance Weaken al-Qaeda Role,” SABA News, April 1, 2012. Available: http://www.sabanews.net/en/news264789.htm
“Yemen, USA Discuss Security Coordination,” SABA News, April 1, 2012. Available: http://www.sabanews.net/en/news264782.htm
“Yemen, USA Discuss Counterterrorism Coordination,” SABA News, April 1, 2012. Available: http://www.sabanews.net/en/news264761.htm
“US is Committed to Support Yemen in Transitional Phase,” SABA News, April 1, 2012. Available: http://www.sabanews.net/en/news264749.htm
[7] Caroline Mango, “One Person Killed in Kenyan Coast Explosions,” Reuters, March 31, 2012. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/31/us-kenya-explosions-idUSBRE82U0GC20120331
“Kenya Casts Suspicion on al Shabaab for Blasts,” Reuters, April 1, 2012. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/01/us-kenya-explosions-idUSBRE8300AD20120401
[8] HSM Press Office, “Your Security Depends on Our Security,” TwitLonger, April 1, 2012. Available: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/goiaod
[9] “Somalia: Tensions Grow Between Senior Al Shabaab Officials,” Garowe Online, April 1, 2012. Available: http://www.garoweonline.com/artman2/publish/Somalia_27/Somalia_Tensions_grow_between_senior_Al_Shabaab_officials.shtml
[10] “10 Die in Al-Shabab and Ahlu Sunna Battle,” Shabelle Media Network, April 1, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/2012/04/01/10-die-in-al-shabab-and-ahlu-sunna-battle/
“Ahlu Sunna Claims Victory Over Central Somalia Battle,” Shabelle Media Network, April 2, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/2012/04/02/ahlu-sunna-claims-victory-over-central-somalia-battle/
[11] “Gunmen Kill 4 in Mogadishu, South Somalia,” Shabelle Media Network, April 2, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/2012/04/02/gunmen-kill-4-inmogadishuand-baidoa-south-somalia/