Gulf of Aden Security Review - April 23, 2012
Yemen: Yemeni airstrikes kill at least 13 Ansar al Sharia militants in Lawder area; Yemeni military captures eastern part of Zinjibar in fighting that kills 19 people; artillery barrage on Lawder kills 13 Ansar al Sharia militants, including three Somalis; airstrike kills three al Qaeda-linked militants in Ma’rib; airstrikes kill 17 Ansar al Sharia militants in Lawder; clashes between the al Houthis and Salafists in Sa’ada kills eight people; U.S. Ambassador praises Yemeni army offensive in Abyan governorate; armed gunmen kidnap French Red Cross worker outside of al Hudaydah; Yemeni military officer accused of smuggling weapons to Ansar al Sharia is suspended; former President Saleh condemns the events of the Arab Spring
Horn of Africa: Puntland forces begin anti-al Shabaab operations in Galgala Mountains; Ethiopian troops shoot and kill four after grenade attacks in Beledweyne; al Shabaab fires mortars in Mogadishu; TFG-Somali security forces conduct joint searches in Mogadishu; Mogadishu prison riots kill one and injure 10; al Shabaab conducts defensive drills in Afmadow as KDF and TFG reportedly close in; al Shabaab releases communiqués claiming attacks and surrender of soldiers; U.S. Embassy in Nairobi issues security message warning U.S. citizens of a potential terrorist attacks on hotels and Kenyan government buildings
Yemen Security Brief
- Yemeni airstrikes killed at least 13 Ansar al Sharia militants on April 21. The airstrikes took place in Jabal Yusef and al Minyasa, both in the Lawder area of Abyan governorate.
- Heavy fighting in Zinjibar between Yemeni government forces and Ansar al Sharia militants on April 21 left 12 militants and seven soldiers dead. The Yemeni military said its forces captured the eastern part of the coastal city, which is the capital of Abyan governorate.
- Yemeni government forces launched an artillery barrage on Lawder on the night of April 22, killing 13 Ansar al Sharia militants. The army received assistance from a group of pro-government civilians, calling themselves the Popular Resistance Committees. A military source reported that Ansar al Sharia was forced to withdraw from areas of Lawder. According to local sources, three of the dead militants were Somalis.
- An airstrike targeted vehicles traveling in Ma’rib governorate, killing three al Qaeda-linked militants. It is unclear whether it was carried out by a U.S. drone or Yemeni aircraft.
- Seventeen Ansar al Sharia militants were killed in an airstrike in southeast Lawder on April 21. It was not clear if the source of the strike was American or Yemeni.
- Eight people were killed in renewed clashes between the al Houthi rebels and Salafists in Sa’ada city on April 21. Each side accused the other of initiating the fighting, which began when four Salafist students of the Dar al Hadith academy in Damaj were stopped at a checkpoint. Four people on each side were killed.
- U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein praised the Yemeni government, and President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi in particular, on April 22 for the offensive against Ansar al Sharia in Abyan governorate: "We have begun to see in the past few days ... a strategy to challenge al-Qaida in ways they have not done in the past months.”
- Armed gunmen kidnapped a French employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross about 20 miles outside of al Hudaydah on April 21. Five suspects were arrested on April 22 and are being held in al Hudaydah. Neither the identities of the captors nor of the kidnapped worker were revealed. 
- The new military commander of the Southern Region, General Salem Qatan, suspended a military officer who he accused of smuggling 410 artillery shells to Ansar al Sharia. The shells were allegedly pilfered from Aden governorate’s armory.
- Former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh fiercely condemned the events of the Arab Spring, saying that they brought “destruction” to the region. Saleh said that Yemen lost billions of dollars in revenues due to the revolt in the country. He criticized the implementation of the power-transfer deal that removed him from office, calling it “biased.”
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Puntland security forces have reportedly begun attacking al Shabaab hideouts in the Galgala Mountains located approximately 40 kilometers south of the port city Boosaaso. On April 11, Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali stated that al Shabaab militants fled to the Galgala Mountains due to increased pressure in the south.
- In Beledweyne, Ethiopian forces reportedly shot and killed a man throwing grenades in their direction along with three others. It is not yet known whether any Ethiopians were injured or killed in the attack.
- Al Shabaab militants reportedly fired two mortars on Mogadishu’s Dharkenley district on April 21. Just prior to the mortar attacks, Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers briefly clashed with al Shabaab militants. At least three civilians were killed and eight others wounded.
- A local resident reported that TFG soldiers and Somali security forces jointly searched residences to maintain security in Mogadishu. The resident added that there is a heavy security presence near the street that leads to the airport, KM-4 junction, and Ex-control Afgoi junction.
- Several TFG soldiers reportedly attempted to release two TFG soldiers detained in Mogadishu’s prison on April 21. Witnesses reported that the soldiers used hand grenades and exchanged gunfire, allegedly killing one inmate and wounding 10 others.
- Al Shabaab has reportedly increased its activity near Afmadow in Lower Jubba region. Mareeg Online reported that heavily-armed Kenyan forces, backed by TFG troops, began moving in on al Shabaab-held areas near Afmadow.
- Al Shabaab’s media arm al Kata’ib Media Foundation released eight communiqués on April 20 and 13 communiqués on April 16 on jihadist forums. In the communiqués, al Shabaab claimed several attacks against Ethiopian, Kenyan, and TFG targets. The most significant events al Shabaab reported include an ambush killing 10 Kenyan soldiers between Badhadhe and Kolbio in Lower Jubba region on April 10, an ambush killing more than 10 Ethiopian soldiers near Berdale in Bay region on April 15, and the surrender of 12 TFG and Ethiopian soldiers in Elbur on April 10 and seven TFG soldiers in Kismayo on April 14. In addition, al Shabaab claimed responsibility for mortar attacks on Villa Somalia in Mogadishu on April 15 and denied losing territory to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM): “The continuous bombing comes as a strong response to the claims of the apostates that the mujahideen withdrew from the city of Mogadishu. The mortar shells were launched from inside the capital, Mogadishu, and these shells couldn’t have reached the palace [Villa Somalia] if they were launched from outside Mogadishu.”
- The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya issued a warning to U.S. citizens stating that “[the embassy] has received credible information regarding a possible attack on Nairobi hotels and prominent Kenyan government buildings.” The security message added that the timing of potential attack is unknown.