Gulf of Aden Security Review - April 24, 2012

Yemen: AQAP commander killed in Ma’rib airstrike; Yemeni forces push to the center of Zinjibar; airstrikes in Shabwah and Abyan governorates kill seven militants; air force commander agrees to step down;  AQAP sets April 30 as date of the execution of Yemeni soldiers; French Red Cross worker reportedly handed over to AQAP; Yemeni officer assassinated in Hadramawt; Yemeni MPs call on government to negotiate with Ansar al Sharia; news agency launches Facebook page and releases video showing Ansar al Sharia installing electrical lines in Abyan governorate

Horn of Africa: Uganda deploys an additional 1,700 troops to further secure Mogadishu; TFG President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed condemns parliamentary infighting, comments on draft constitution; al Shabaab beheads businessman in El Adde; International Maritime Bureau reports a decrease in global pirate attacks in the first quarter

Yemen Security Brief

  • The Yemeni Embassy in Washington, D.C. announced that one of the militants killed in an April 22 airstrike in Ma’rib governorate’s al Wadi district was Mohammed Said al Umdah, a top al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) commander and the fourth-most wanted man in Yemen. Umdah was imprisoned for his role in the 2002 bombing of the Limburg, a French oil tanker. He was one of the 23 men who escaped from a Yemeni political security prison on February 23, 2006, who later formed the core of AQAP. The embassy added that Umdah was trained “under [Osama] bin Laden’s supervision” at the al Farouq camp in Afghanistan.[1]
  • Yemeni military officials announced that their forces were able to push into the center of Zinjibar, the Ansar al Sharia-held capital of Abyan governorate, after a six-hour battle. The Yemeni soldiers advanced under the cover of artillery and tanks, and destroyed four tanks that Ansar al Sharia had previously captured. Dozens were killed and wounded on both sides.[2]
  • A suspected U.S. drone strike reportedly hit a pickup truck in Shabwah governorate, killing three al Qaeda-linked militants. Yemeni military sources reported that a Yemeni airstrike killed four Ansar al Sharia militants near Lawder in Abyan governorate. Both strikes occurred on April 23.[3]
  • Mohammed Saleh al Ahmar, the commander of the air force, agreed to step down. He had officially been dismissed from his post on April 6 as part of a general restructuring of the Yemeni military undertaken by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. However, he had previously refused to resign, seizing Sana’a International Airport and reportedly threatening to shoot down planes.[4]
  • AQAP announced that on April 30 it would execute all 73 soldiers that it captured in raids on Abyan military bases in March. The men are currently being held by AQAP in Jaar in Abyan governorate. AQAP has demanded that its members be released from Yemeni jails in return for the soldiers, a demand that the Yemeni government has ignored.[5]
  • A French employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross, kidnapped on April 21, was reportedly turned over to AQAP on April 23 and is currently being held in Abyan governorate. A tribal source indicated that the initial kidnappers were not AQAP militants.[6]
  • Major Adnan Ukaish, the deputy director of Hadramawt governorate’s counternarcotics force, was killed by unidentified gunmen on April 23.[7]
  • Several Yemeni members of parliament have reportedly called on the government to begin negotiations with Ansar al Sharia, seeing it as the only way to end violence in Yemen’s southern regions.[8] 
  • Madad News Agency released a video showing Ansar al Sharia militants installing electrical lines in various villages on the outskirts of Jaar. The residents of the villages praised Ansar al Sharia for providing them with electricity after the Yemeni government did not fulfill a local request for it. They also reported that the militants refused to accept any compensation in return for their services. One resident said, “Ansar al-Shariah fixed what the generations before them did, and may Allah reward them in the best way.”[9]
  • Madad News Agency created a Facebook page on April 13, saying that it did so “after the intensification of the fierce media campaign against the mujahideen in the Arabian Peninsula, and after the insistence of most media outlets, except for those who have mercy from the Merciful One, to distort the truth and color the events with what suits their policymakers.” The page displays news and photographs from the front lines in Lawder, as well as news of a militant’s marriage. As of April 24, the page had 683 “likes.”[10]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • On April 23, Colonel Felix Kulayigye, spokesman for the Uganda People’s Defense Forces, reported that Uganda has deployed an additional 1,700 troops to Somalia, bringing the total number of Ugandan peacekeepers to 8,000. Kulayigye stated, “The troops will take charge of the security in Mogadishu as the rest of the troops will move out of the capital to clean up the rest of Somalia.”[11]
  • Transitional Federal Government (TFG) President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed spoke out against infighting between members of parliament: “The current political dispute of the parliament should be rid of soon [sic], because it is not helping us progress as a government. We will not tolerate and stop our national task[,] a parliament that has two speakers,” he said on April 23. In addition, President Ahmed referenced the draft constitution, completed on April 20, stating that there were still several changes that needed to be made.[12]
  • Relatives confirmed that al Shabaab beheaded a businessman in El Adde. Residents reported that the victim was pulled out of his car while driving from Jowhar to El Adde. Al Shabaab accused the businessman of spying for the Somali government.[13]
  • The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported that global pirate attacks decreased by almost a third in the first quarter of 2012, totaling 102 in comparison to the 142 attacks in the first quarter of 2011. Somali pirates were responsible for over half of the pirate attacks. IMB attributed the reduction to the increase of private security guards and preemptive strikes by navies in the region. IMB also reported that Somali piracy has spread as far as Mozambique, Seychelles, Oman, and the western Maldives.[14]    


[1] “Embassy: Top Yemeni Militant Killed in Weekend Airstrike,” CNN, April 24, 2012. Available: http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/24/world/meast/yemen-militant-killed; Press release from the Embassy of Yemen, Washington, D.C., April 24, 2012.
[2] “Yemen Army Recaptures Center of al-Qaida-Held City,” AP, April 24, 2012. Available: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/04/24/yemeni-army-fights-to-center-al-qaida-held-city
[3] Ahmed al Haj, “Yemen: Air Strikes Kill 7 al-Qaida Militants,” AP, April 23, 2012. Available: http://www.boston.com/news/world/middleeast/articles/2012/04/23/yemen_air_strikes_kill_7_al_qaida_militants
[4] “Yemen Air Force Chief ‘Agrees to Give Up Post,’” BBC, April 24, 2012. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17825776
[5] “AQAP Sets April 30 as Final Deadline to Execute Yemeni Troops,” Yemen Post, April 23, 2012. Available: http://yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=5207&MainCat=3
[6] “French Aide Worker Handed Over to al-Qaeda,” Yemen Post, April 23, 2012. Available: http://yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=5210&MainCat=3
[7] “Officer Assassinated in Yemen,” Yemen Post, April 23, 2012. Available: http://yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=5209&MainCat=3
[8] “Yemeni Officials Calling for Dialogue with al-Qaeda,” Yemen Post, April 24, 2012. Available: http://yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=5213&MainCat=3
[9] “Madad Video Shows Ansar al-Shariah Installing Electrical Lines,” SITE Intelligence Group, April 23, 2012. Available at SITE.
[10] “Social Network Jihad: Madad News Agency on Facebook,” SITE Intelligence Group, April 20, 2012. Available at SITE.
[11] “Uganda Deploys Additional 1,700 Troops in Volatile Somalia,” Xinhua, April 23, 2012. Available: http://big5.xinhuanet.com/gate/big5/news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2012-04/23/c_131546054.htm
[12] “Somali President Speaks Out Against Parliament Infighting, Draft Constitution,” Shabelle Media Network, April 24, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/2012/04/24/somali-president-speaks-out-against-parliament-infighting-draft-constitution/
[13] “Al Shabab Beheads a Businessman in Southern Somalia,” Shabelle Media Network, April 24, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/2012/04/24/al-shabab-beheads-a-businessman-in-southern-somalia/
[14] Jonathan Saul, “Global Pirate Attacks Down in First Quarter, Nigeria Risk Grows,” Reuters, April 23, 2012. Available: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-piracy-attacksbre83m10h-20120423,0,3817152.story