Gulf of Aden Security Review - April 27, 2012

Yemen: Airstrike targets militants in Abyan governorate; suspected AQAP militants blow up gas pipeline in Shabwah governorate; AQAP’s bomb maker allegedly resurfaces; Yemen’s Military Committee reports soldiers’ withdrawal from Sana’a; two Yemeni intelligence services merge; AQAP scholar urges Yemeni sheikhs to visit areas under Ansar al Sharia control; Madad News Agency releases 11th video in series

Horn of Africa: TFG and KDF clash with al Shabaab in Gedo region; AMISOM allegedly plans to expand military operations against al Shabaab; American-born al Shabaab commander Omar Hammami reportedly alive; two elders arrested by al Shabaab in Bardhere in Gedo region

Yemen Security Brief

  • Local sources reported that a suspected U.S. drone strike hit a car in Mudia in Abyan governorate, killing three Ansar al Sharia militants on April 26. Other local sources reported that a second drone strike hit another target in Mudia the same day, but no casualties were reported in this attack.  In addition, Yemeni warplanes targeted sites in the vicinity of Shaqra, a coastal area in Abyan.[1]
  • Militants, believed to be linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), blew up a pipeline that transports gas from Ma’rib governorate to Belhaf port on the Arabian Sea. The attack took place on April 26 in Shabwah governorate’s Arma district. The same pipeline was attacked by militants in late March.[2]
  • Ibrahim Hassan al Asiri, AQAP’s chief bomb maker, allegedly resurfaced in Yemen after almost a year underground. American counterterrorism officials noted with concern that Asiri might have returned to trying to build explosive devices that could defeat airline security. American officials initially thought he had been killed in the September 2011 strike that killed Anwar al Awlaki. Asiri’s fingerprint was also found on the bomb that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, failed to detonate in the 2009 Christmas Day attack.[3]
  • Yemen’s Military Committee announced in an April 26 meeting that it will remove its soldiers from Sana’a, including at al Hasaba and Sufan checkpoints. Additionally, the committee said that the Sana’a-Ma’rib road will open under the protection of security forces.[4]
  • Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi announced that the country’s two intelligence services, Political Security and National Security, will merge as part of a larger military and security restructuring. The announcement came after a meeting with FBI Director Robert Mueller.[5]
  • In an audio speech posted on jihadist forums on September 26, Abu Zubeir Adil al Abab, AQAP’s shari’a official, criticized other Muslim scholars for falsely portraying the mujahideen and standing with United States over the Muslim community. He stated that the mujahideen are “sacrificing their blood in order to get the Muslims out of ignorance and the claws of democracy, socialism, and Houthiism to the just rulings of Heaven” and that the sheikhs must properly convey this. Abab urges sheikhs to visit “Waqar” (Jaar) and other areas under militant control, which “will make our perspectives closer and will clarify the picture, and you will see our circumstances with your own eyes and without middlemen and away from the lies of the media.[6]
  • Madad News Agency posted the eleventh video in their “Eye on the Events” series on jihadist forums on April 26. The video depicts a British journalist from the Guardian and a Yemeni journalist interviewing Yemeni prisoners of war, captured by Ansar al Sharia in raids in early March. The soldiers castigate the Yemeni government, which has ignored Ansar al Sharia’s conditions for the prisoners’ release. One of them said, “We left our families and defended the country and the land, and here we are today detained and you don’t care about us at all. Therefore, we demand from you to move immediately to release us and cooperate with Ansar al-Shariah to release their captives and exchange them.”[7]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Somali officials reported that clashes between Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers, backed by Kenyan troops, and al Shabaab killed 11 people in Garbaharey in Gedo region. Local residents reported that the clashes began when TFG and Kenyan forces launched ground and air attacks on al Shabaab-held bases. TFG spokesman for troops in Gedo region Ahmed Hirse stated that seven soldiers died in combat.[8]
  • Boubacar Gaoussou Diarra, head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), reported that AMISOM is planning to extend its military operations in the upcoming months: “We want to capture areas which are now controlled by control [sic] Al-Qaeda allied Al-Shabab insurgent bases out of Mogadishu, as soon as we get increased [sic] AMISOM’s force strength to a maximum of 17,731 uniformed personnel.”[9]
  • Somalimemo, a pro-al Shabaab online news outlet, reported that Omar Hammami, an American-born al Shabaab commander who is also known as Abu Mansour al Amriki, is alive on April 26. Somalimemo’s editor stated that a “reliable source” confirmed that Omar Hammami is living in areas under al Shabaab control in southern Somalia. The editor acknowledged rumors of Hammami’s death and the video Hammami released on March 16, in which he stated that he feared for his life.[10]
  • Al Shabaab reportedly arrested two elders suspected of having ties to the TFG in Bardhere in Gedo region on April 25.[11]                  

[1] “Two Drones Bomb al Qaeda Militants in Abyan and Three Are Killed,” Al Masdar Online, April 26, 2012. Available: http://almasdaronline.com/index.php?page=news&article-section=1&news_id=31350
[2] “New Explosion Targets Gas Pipeline in Shabwah Governorate,” Al Masdar Online, April 26, 2012. Available: http://almasdaronline.com/index.php?page=news&article-section=1&news_id=31356
[3] Adam Goldman, “Top al-Qaida Bomb Maker in Yemen Resurfaces,” AP, April 26, 2012. Available: http://militarytimes.com/news/2012/04/ap-top-al-qaida-bomb-maker-yemen-resurfaces-042612
[4] “Military Committee Makes Progress in Sana’a,” Yemen Post, April 27, 2012. Available: http://yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=5238&MainCat=3
“Military Committee Recognizes Area Visit Saturday to End Remaining Armed Elements in the Capital,” 26 September Net, April 26, 2012. Available: http://yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=5238&MainCat=3
[5] “Agreement to Merge Yemen’s Intelligence,” Yemen Post, April 27, 2012. Available: http://yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=5235&MainCat=3
[6] “AQAP Scholar Invites Fellow Scholars to Visit Fighters’ Areas,” SITE Intelligence Group, April 26, 2012. Available at SITE.
[7] “Madad Video Shows Journalists’ Visit to Captive Yemeni Soldiers,” SITE Intelligence Group, April 26, 2012. Available at SITE.
[8] “Fighting in Gedo Region Leaves 11 Dead,” Shabelle Media Network, April 27, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/2012/04/27/fighting-in-gedo-region-leaves-11-dead/
[9] “Official-AU Forces in Somalia Plan to Expand Military Operations Against Al Shabab,” Shabelle Media Network, April 27, 2012. Available: http://shabelle.net/2012/04/27/official-au-forces-in-somalia-plan-to-expand-military-operations-against-al-shabab/
[10] “Shabaab-Supporting News Outlet Says Hammami Is Alive,” SITE Intelligence Group, April 26, 2012. Available at SITE.
[11] “Somali Islamists Arrest Elders for Having Links with Government,” Bar Kulan, April 25, 2012. Available: http://somaliamediamonitoring.org/?p=1239